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Architect, businessman and philanthropist Albert Hong dies at age 84

10 Oct 2019

Straits Times, 10 Oct 2019, Architect, businessman and philanthropist Albert Hong dies at 84

Prominent architect, businessman and philanthropist Albert Hong, who had donated a sum of $30 million to the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) about five years ago, died on Monday. He was 84.
 
"Dr Hong departed peacefully at home," a family spokesman said in an e-mail to The Straits Times.
 
"He was a private man and according to his wishes, there was a quiet send-off with only immediate family, no wake and no announcements in newspapers," she added, without elaborating.
 
A memorial service will be held next year, she said, adding that his family has asked for "privacy during this period of bereavement".
 
Described as a man with a strong personality and forceful character by legendary billionaire Robert Kuok, Dr Hong's journey of triumphs, accolades and early adversities was encapsulated in his autobiography, which was launched in 2016.
 
His signature message in the book - that life is "hard work and sweat" - was wrought from an illustrious career that spanned more than six decades.
  
RSP Architects Planners & Engineers, where he was the chairman, is behind many of Singapore's iconic buildings, including the Republic Plaza, Singapore Indoor Stadium and the MAS Building.
 
Dr Hong joined the firm in 1964, when it was named Raglan Squire and Partners. He rose through the ranks and became its first local partner. In 1980, the firm took the name RSP Architects Planners & Engineers to reflect its expanded range of services. Its staff strength also soared from 16 in 1964 to 1,400 in 2016.
 
He was president of the Singapore Institute of Architects from 1973 to 1976 and served on the board of the Housing Board, among other things. He received the Public Service Star award twice.
 
Dr Hong's business acumen also earned him the 1994 Businessman of the Year Award.
 
"Success brings obligations. I believe you have to give back to the community," he had said.
 
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in an e-mail to ST that he was "saddened at the loss of a good and generous friend".
 
ESM Goh had characterised Dr Hong, in his speech at the 2016 book launch, "as a successful entrepreneurial architect, with a strong social conscience and sound values, generous and open, warm and reliable friend".
 
Dr Hong's name is writ large at SUTD, where its largest lecture theatre is named after him, and at Raffles Institution (RI), which in 1995 named its school hall the Albert Hong Hall in recognition of his contributions to the school.
 
RI said yesterday that Dr Hong, its student from 1950 to 1953, was "a passionate alumnus who always had the interest of the school foremost in his mind".
 
"As far as his health allowed him, and as long as he was not travelling, Dr Hong would try to be present at the school's Founder's Day celebrations. We are deeply saddened by his passing."
 
SUTD president Chong Tow Chong, paying tribute to Dr Hong's belief in life-long learning and giving every student an equal opportunity, said "his legacy will live on in the lives of those he had touched".
 
Former National Kidney Foundation chief T. T. Durai, whom Dr Hong helped avoid bankruptcy with a $1 million loan and a job more than a decade ago, said yesterday he owed an unending debt of gratitude to the man for "giving me back my life".
 
He added: "He gave my daughter a medical school scholarship and this from a man whom I first met by accident. He expected nothing in return from me."