New President for Yale-NUS College

14 March 2017

Eminent historian Professor Tan Tai Yong, currently Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) at Yale-NUS College, will take office on 1 July 2017

Yale-NUS College, Asia’s leading liberal arts college, has named Professor Tan Tai Yong as its new President, following an extensive global search. Deeply involved in the College since its early planning days, Professor Tan has been serving as the College’s Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) since 2014 and oversees the academic and co-curricular aspects of the Yale-NUS liberal arts experience. Professor Tan will take office on 1 July 2017.

A strong believer in the value of a liberal arts and science education, Professor Tan has been active in shaping the academic programme of the College from the very beginning. He served as the co-chair of the joint Yale and NUS committee that hired the inaugural faculty members in the humanities and helped shape the common curriculum in 2011. In October 2014, Professor Tan took on the role of Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) at Yale-NUS, where he worked closely with students, faculty, and staff to enrich the educational experience and enhance the academic programmes at the College. Under his leadership, the Yale-NUS faculty has nearly doubled in size, comprising outstanding teachers who are also respected researchers in their respective fields. Professor Tan also worked with the academic team to strengthen the curriculum, enhance research at the College and improve laboratory and library facilities, and with the student affairs team to further integrate the academic and residential life at the College.

Madam Kay Kuok, Chair of the College’s Governing Board, said, “Every member of the Governing Board is delighted by this appointment: Professor Tan is a seasoned and respected academic leader with almost two decades in senior administrative positions; he has been a major architect of Yale-NUS College since its earliest planning days; and he has been an indispensable contributor to building the culture and curriculum of the College in the two and a half years he has admirably served as the College’s Executive Vice President. I look forward to his able leadership of the College in the years to come.”

The Governing Board, meeting in Singapore today, unanimously elected Professor Tan after an extensive global search led by Presidential Search Committee co-chairs Professor Richard C Levin, President Emeritus of Yale University, and Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS). Other members of the search committee included Yale-NUS Governing Board members Ms Linda Lorimer, former Vice President at Yale University, Ms Chong Siak Ching, Chief Executive Officer of the National Gallery Singapore and senior Yale-NUS College faculty Professor Terry Nardin and Associate Professor Khoo Hoon Eng.

Professor Richard C Levin shared, “The Search Committee cast its net around the world. In the process, we learned to our delight how well respected Yale-NUS is and how much our educational programme and ambitions are admired in North America, Europe and throughout Asia. We considered many outstanding candidates, but in the end, we concluded that the best candidate was right here. I have come to know about three hundred College and University presidents over the last quarter century, maybe more. And it is clear to me that those who have been the most successful are distinguished by personal qualities of integrity, fairness, common sense, modesty, good humour, a penchant for giving credit to others, and deep commitment to always putting the institution first. Tai Yong is just this sort of servant-leader.”

Professor Tan Chorh Chuan added, “A highly effective academic leader, Tai Yong is widely respected for his leadership qualities, strong interpersonal skills, empathy and grace. He is deeply committed to liberal arts education and is truly passionate about Yale-NUS College in particular. I am confident his outstanding leadership qualities and his ability to work closely with the Yale-NUS community will help propel the College to new heights of excellence and distinctiveness. In addition, his extensive international and regional connections will further advance the College’s pioneering efforts to reimagine liberal arts and science education in Asia and beyond.”

Upon receiving the appointment, Professor Tan Tai Yong shared, “It is the greatest privilege to be appointed to lead this innovative institution that has been reinventing education in the liberal arts and sciences for this century. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the College in the coming years as we equip this generation of outstanding students for leadership in every sector of society. I am confident that our graduates will use the broader perspective and empathy they have developed at the College to serve their communities in Singapore and around the world.”

Professor Pericles Lewis, Founding President of the College said, “I am overjoyed to be handing over stewardship of this remarkable college to my friend and colleague Tan Tai Yong. His wisdom, energy, and calm have improved Yale-NUS immeasurably since he joined the College full-time two and a half years ago. A leader who understands the faculty, staff, and students well, Tai Yong is poised to take the College to further heights of excellence in the coming years. When I return to New Haven, I look forward to working with Tai Yong to ensure the continued success of Yale-NUS.” Professor Lewis will return to Yale University to assume the role of Vice President for Global Strategy and Deputy Provost for International Affairs.

Current Yale President Peter Salovey, a member of the Yale-NUS Governing Board, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the College since it was first envisioned. President Salovey said, “I am delighted that Tai Yong will become the College’s next President. He is respected by the leadership of Yale and by many faculty colleagues with whom he has worked over the years. He and I are eager to build even stronger connections between Yale in New Haven and Yale-NUS.”

After earning a First Class Honours degree from NUS and a PhD in History from Cambridge University, Professor Tan made important contributions to scholarship. In almost two decades of administrative service with increasing levels of responsibility, he served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at NUS for six years, and later Vice Provost (Student Life) at NUS from 2010 to 2014. During those years, he was one of the key architects of academic and student life programmes at University Town. He has drawn on this experience in his work at Yale-NUS, a fully residential college. A noted historian of South and Southeast Asian history, Prof Tan served as founding Director of the NUS Institute of South Asian Studies, and is on the Editorial Board of the journal Modern Asian Studies (Cambridge) and the International Editorial Board of India Review (USA). Appointed as one of nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) in 2014, Professor Tan contributed fresh perspectives during his stint in Parliament, including speaking on the importance of cultural diplomacy as the basis of strong relationships with other countries and encouraging resilience in Singaporean students. He has been a member or chair of many educational, cultural and charitable organisations in Singapore, including service as Chair of the National Collections Advisory Panel of the National Heritage Board.

For media enquiries, please contact publicaffairs@yale-nus.edu.sg