By Julian Low
On 29 May 2017, Yale-NUS College celebrated the graduation of the Class of 2017. Shortly after, the Yale-NUS community will bid adieu to Founding President, Professor Pericles Lewis who will be leaving the College upon completion of his five-year presidency term. On 1 July 2017, Professor Tan Tai Yong, the College’s President-Designate, will be taking office as Yale-NUS College’s new president.
President Lewis took office at Yale-NUS in 2012 and began realising the College’s vision of ‘building a community of learning’. Under his leadership, the College recruited over 100 faculty from leading global colleges and universities; designed an international curriculum that has received widespread attention and interest; and enrolled over 700 outstanding students from more than 50 countries across six continents.
President Lewis will return to Yale University in New Haven, USA, to serve as Vice President for Global Strategy and Deputy Provost for International Affairs.
Reflecting his time at the College, President Lewis highlighted that one of his proudest achievements at Yale-NUS was the distinctive and structured curriculum that has gained an excellent reputation worldwide. He shared, “Our faculty and staff have been instrumental in establishing a broad range of subjects and high quality international learning programmes. I am very happy to see that our globally diverse student body can wholly benefit from this. Coupled with the residential programme, I am also proud that this led to a mindset of continuous learning beyond the classroom walls. This model has established a good reputation worldwide and garnered much attention from prospective employers. I am extremely confident that our students will be successful in whatever field they pursue after graduation.” He added that he was hopeful that the curriculum would continue to be successful for many years to come.
In fact, the students are a mainstay of what he will dearly miss about the College. “They are a fun, creative and positive bunch of outstanding individuals. They are a joy to teach and nurture; their unique personalities bring much colour and life to the College,” he said.
On the College faculty and administrative staff, President Lewis was immensely grateful for their dedication and effort. “Many of them took a leap of faith into unknown territory to develop something from nothing. It is because of their dedication that the College has achieved much. I cannot be thankful enough for their unwavering support. I am confident that they will continue to bring the College to greater heights,” he said.
President Lewis aims to bring Yale-NUS College’s culture of having civil discussions back to Yale University. He said, “Our students enjoy having debates and are able to keep the atmosphere civil. In the US, especially after the presidential elections last year, political discourse often veers into conflict. The ability to keep debates respectful is an attribute I admire about Singapore and this ability to have civil discussions is partly why the liberal-arts college has been successful.”
The College community came together to produce a special tribute video to share their fondest memories and send their well wishes to President Lewis. The video revealed a myriad of anecdotes on some little-known aspects of the College’s founding president, such as how he would always be the first person at the College’s gym in the early hours or how good he was at mental sums, sometimes even faster than a calculator.
Everyone in the community was unanimous in their praise of President Lewis for being a warm and friendly leader. ‘An approachable boss’, ‘a humble person’ and ‘a sincere friend’ – these were the common terms used to describe President Lewis. A recurring comment amongst the community was how President Lewis remembered every individual’s name with ease.
However, this will not be the last that the Yale-NUS community will see of him. President Lewis has promised that he will pay regular visits to the College wherever possible. “One of the responsibilities of my new posting will require me to work regularly with senior management of Yale-NUS, so rest assured I will be back to catch up with everyone!” he said.
Thank you President Lewis for your dedication and service to the College. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.