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SUTD 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner - Opening Address by Professor Chong Tow Chong, SUTD President

23 Oct 2019

Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance,
Mr Goh Chok Tong, Emeritus Senior Minister,
Mr Lee Tzu Yang, Chairman of the SUTD Board of Trustees,
Mr Sam Goi, SUTD Patron for Advancement
Members of SUTD’s Board of Trustees,
Distinguished partners and donors,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good evening and a very warm welcome to SUTD’s 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner. We are very grateful to have you join us this evening to celebrate this joyous milestone.

Turning 10 has been a memorable journey for the SUTD Family. We have definitely come a long way from the time where we were first located on the 4th floor of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language at Ghim Moh Road. We then moved to our interim Dover campus, where our first three batches of students matriculated and started school.
 
In those days, we used to personally hand-deliver our admission offer letters, going to each prospective student’s home to share details about SUTD with them and their families. Many of them had not heard about SUTD. So it was important to use this opportunity to visit their homes and clarify any questions or concerns they may have. I recall those days with fondness, because they serve as a good reminder of SUTD’s humble roots, and how our university was built on this foundation of mutual trust and openness among the staff, faculty and students.

We now have a beautiful East Coast campus that is serviced by an MRT station linked directly to the University.
 
SUTD is where it is today because of the hard work everyone has put in.
 
Starting from scratch, SUTD was given the opportunity to reimagine higher education for the 21st century. We set out with a bold vision to nurture future leaders and innovators who will go on to shape a better world, through a design-centric, multi-disciplinary education.
 
Since our inauguration in 2009, we have matriculated eight batches of undergraduate students, with about 40% of female students. Traditionally, female students account for less than 20% of the student body enrolled in engineering. So we are proud of our efforts in changing the perception that an education and career in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - is a man’s world. 
 
We have so far graduated five batches of undergraduate students with good employment rates and high starting salaries. They have secured jobs in over 78% of Singapore key industries - a true testament of how SUTD graduates are well-regarded and highly valued by industry.
 
We are now recognised, globally, as the thought-leader in Design Innovation.
 
We led in the curation and design of last year’s Singapore Pavilion for the Venice Biennale international architecture exhibition.
 
And I am happy to share that SUTD has achieved two President’s Design Awards to date.
 
We have also established an SUTD Academy to support lifelong learning, developing flexible and modular courses for the time-constrained working population as they will need to learn new things multiple times in their working careers.
 
As a research-intensive university, we have launched 10 graduate programmes and established 13 research centres. The research centres set up in the past five years were mainly done in collaboration with industry, such as the Corp-lab with ST Engineering for cyber security, and the Aviation Studies Institute with CAAS. This is to ensure our research is industry-relevant and aligned with their transformation in the new digital economy.
 
None of SUTD’s achievements would have been possible, if not for the kindness and generosity of so many organisations and individuals, who have supported us over the years, making a difference in the lives of our students and community.
 
Thank you for believing in SUTD’s vision and supporting the rewarding work that we do. I would like to highlight some key people who were instrumental in helping SUTD get to where we are currently.
 
Mr Philip Ng, SUTD’s Founding Chairman 
Philip played a pivotal role in establishing our key partnerships with MIT and Zhejiang University. He also rallied captains of industries to form the steering committee for the University, which became the pioneer Board of Trustees for SUTD. Furthermore, Philip provided invaluable guidance and insights as we set out to build SUTD, and generously supported our inaugural set of scholarships. For his efforts, we will be awarding Philip the SUTD Benefactors Fellows Award, the highest honour presented to benefactors who have made a difference to SUTD.

Emeritus Senior Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong 
Mr Goh has always been a strong supporter of SUTD. He was our Founding Patron for Advancement since 2012. He has helped open many doors for us to reach out to donors, not only from Singapore, but also from other countries. We are very honoured to have ESM Goh with us tonight. Thank you.

Mr Sam Goi, a pioneer member of our Board of Trustees and new SUTD Patron for Advancement 
Sam served as the Chairman of SUTD’s Advancement Subcommittee since the beginning. During his tenure, he championed the University's fundraising efforts, opening up his extensive networks and helping us build up our endowment fund over the years. We are deeply grateful to Sam for his immense contribution and leadership, and will also be conferring on him the SUTD Benefactors Fellows Award.

The late Dr Albert Hong, one of Singapore’s pioneering architects, was also a generous benefactor to SUTD. 
In 2017, SUTD named our largest lecture theatre after Dr Hong in honour of his support to SUTD over the years. We are inspired by Dr Hong’s steadfast belief in life-long learning and his desire to give every student equal education opportunites regardless of financial circumstance. We know that his legacy will live on in the lives of those he has touched. 
 
Additionally, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat for his support and guidance since the time he was Minister for Education, and for gracing tonight’s event as our Guest-of-Honour. 
 
Also not forgetting our SUTD Chairman, Mr Lee Tzu Yang and every single member of the Board of Trustees, past and present. They have “rolled up their sleeves” in their own capacities to work with us in various subcommittees, provided their wisdom and extensive networks and supported SUTD in more ways than I can count.
 
There are still many others whom I want to thank for their significant contributions to SUTD, but the list is endless.
 
So let me conclude my appreciation by giving special thanks to QuantEdge Foundation and Expand Construction for their most recent donations to the University. Their gifts will enable SUTD to provide greater support for more students from less privileged backgrounds, ensuring that higher education remains accessible and affordable.
 
Igniting the Future
 
At SUTD, we are aware that the future starts now. The world is fast-evolving, and the 21st century faces numerous new challenges such as the digital transformation and the 4th industrial revolution. This has created wide-ranging impacts on society and economy, including the future of jobs.
 
In society and environment, we have pressing issues such as rapid urbanisation, aging population, climate change, security, even the many unforeseeable unknowns. SUTD will continue to strengthen our bench strength to develop deep interdisciplinary and design capabilities to solve these large-scale real-world problems.
 
At SUTD, we have already made good progress in the four key growth areas that we have identified – Aviation, Cities, Healthcare and Artificial Intelligence. I believe this will help steer SUTD in the right direction to transform Singapore and bring the world forward.
 
With the generous support from our donors, I am happy to announce that SUTD will be launching a premier Global Excellence Scholarship (GES). This new scholarship aims to nurture the next generation of leaders and innovators who will go on to become the pillars of our nation tomorrow. Available from 2020, scholars from this programme will be able to pursue a relevant post graduate degree with a grant of S$15,000, in addition to having a fully-funded SUTD undergraduate education and a guaranteed overseas exchange opportunity. 
 
Closing Remarks
 
We hope that you, our donors and benefactors, will continue to engage and partner us in our next phase of growth.

Thus far, the funds we have raised have been put to good use, with almost 65% of our students benefitting from scholarships and financial aid. Of these, 39% of students who come from low income families have received either financial aid or needs-based scholarships. Armed with our unique human-centric multi-disciplinary focus, they can go out to better Singapore and the world by design.
 
In closing, I would like to once again thank all of you for being present to celebrate this significant milestone with us. All of you have contributed to the foundation and progress of SUTD, which has grown from a sprout to what we are today.
 
Last but not least, I would like to thank our faculty, staff, students and alumni for being an integral part of the vibrant and thriving SUTD Family.
 
I wish you all a pleasant evening ahead.
 
Thank you.