29 January 2021
By Avani Adhikari
Mrs Tan Guek Ming and Mr Tan Wang Cheow taking a cruise along the Moskva River, Russia in 2018. Image provided by Mr Tan.
In his 39 years of working first as an Auditor, then as a Sales Executive selling mini computers and finally as the Executive Chairman of Food Empire Holdings Limited, Mr Tan Wang Cheow’s career has taken him all over the world. From Russia to Middle East and Central Asia, Mr Tan witnessed first-hand how many people in these regions were stuck in the poverty trap and unable to lift themselves up due to the lack of education.
“Many opportunities await them if they can avail themselves of tertiary education. However, the reality is that even if the programmes are there, sometimes the financial plight of the family does not allow them to study,” said Mr Tan.
Since its establishment in 1983, Mr Tan’s company, Food Empire Holdings Limited has become one of the market leaders in the world of instant beverages. Yet he remains humble and continues to believe strongly in providing education to all students including those in need.
“Education is a lifelong continuous marathon that only ends the day we breathe our last. It provides not only knowledge we apply in our daily lives, but also allows us to learn the capability of accessing further information.”
Motivated by the desire to increase accessibility of education, Mr Tan, together with his wife, have continuously strived to reduce the financial burden of underprivileged students in higher education at their alma mater, the National University of Singapore (NUS), by supporting bursaries. As an extension of their philanthropic interests, Mr and Mrs Tan subsequently established the “Tan Wang Cheow & Tan Guek Ming Study Award” to help students with their financial aid needs at Yale-NUS College.
“A Yale-NUS education is known to indulge into a culture of academic excellence and to be intellectually engaged in all that one does. It prepares oneself for any leadership roles that may come in the future. It is committed to the ideal of thinking freely and to be able to apply knowledge across all disciplines so as to achieve the fullest potential of the human mind,” Mr Tan said.
Parents of a Yale-NUS student themselves, Mr and Mrs Tan hoped the Study Award would go beyond helping students in need and pave the way for individuals to give when they could.
“I would like to set an example for my son that although we are [able] to pay for his education, he must be cognizant of the fact that society is never fully equitable. Unless the well-to-do take a step forward to help their fellow citizens who may be worse off, the balance and harmony in society will not be achieved,” Mr Tan explained.
“[Through my gift] I do wish to persuade more well-to-do contemporaries to contribute whatever they can to help students who have the ability to earn a degree at Yale-NUS but are afflicted with financial issues.”
“I hope to set the ball rolling and provide an example to the students in the hope that they will value the education and learn to pay it forward sometime in the future whenever they are financially able,” added Mr Tan.