14 May 2014: Benevolent scholar’s gift to humanity

Written by NUS Development Office | Image by Aleithia Low 

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“I want to focus on something which gives humanity more handsome dividends,” declares Dr Alan Chan, a businessman turned scholar, whose gift established the Alan Chan Study Award at Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS).

His gift will not only help financially needy students, but will also support innovative student programs at the College, which will facilitate initiatives that focus on the development of students as ethical and effective global citizens.

“I like the unconventional approach Yale-NUS has taken towards its pedagogy and curriculum. It’s new and refreshing; combining American liberal arts traditions with the diverse intellectual traditions and cultures of Asia, ” Dr Chan explains. “Students should learn to be open-minded; to take in diverse perspectives and opinions.”

It makes perfect sense for the self-made businessman to take a pragmatic and business-like approach towards philanthropy. Having started a company from scratch and earned every dollar that he owns himself, it is very important to him that a gift yield maximum impact. And in his opinion, education has a ripple effect which is far-reaching and long-lasting.

Enrolling in the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program in his late 40s is evidence that Dr Chan greatly values education. Although he feels that successful entrepreneurship depends largely on one’s intellect and fortunate circumstances, education in his later years has helped him reflect on his past experience.

The former owner of a tanker shipping company has turned philosophical and is now a scholar in Confucius studies, with particular expertise on its applications in business and modern life. He shares his knowledge through books he has written, and also conducts seminars and lectures at the Confucius Institute in Singapore, Zhejiang University in China, and Bond University in Australia. Bond University also recently conferred a Doctorate on Dr Chan.

Expounding Confucian wisdom, he would give the same advice to both budding entrepreneurs and students at the College: “Look afar”. When he started his shipping company, he told his staff, “Don’t build ships for today, build ships for five years from now. We should always be one step ahead.”

This article is by the NUS Development Office website. To view the article in full, please click here.