Yale-NUS College announces the College’s inaugural President and leadership team

30 May 2012

Outstanding US and Asian talent with strong academic, research and leadership experience to shape Singapore’s liberal arts college

May 30, 2012, Singapore – The Governing Board of Yale-NUS College announced today the appointment of Yale University’s Professor Pericles Lewis as the inaugural President of Yale-NUS College and the appointment of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Professor Lai Choy Heng as Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs.) Both men will formally take office on July 1, 2012. The leadership team is rounded out by Mrs Doris Sohmen-Pao, who was appointed as Executive Vice President (Administration) earlier this year.

Professor Lewis has been on the faculty of Yale since 1998 and is a full professor in both the English and Comparative Literature departments. He is a distinguished scholar of British and European literature and is recognised internationally as a leader in the field of modernism. He has played an instrumental role in the conceptualisation of the College’s academic programs and in the College’s establishment. In particular, he has been extensively involved in planning the new curriculum for Yale-NUS College and has chaired the committee responsible for recruiting humanities faculty.

Professor Lewis has held a series of important administrative positions at Yale including Director of Graduate Studies for the Department of Comparative Literature, Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Literature Major, Chair of the Committee on Library Policy, and Chair of the Yale College Committee on Majors. He has served on a series of key committees ranging from the University Budget Committee to the Executive Committee of Yale’s Whitney Humanities Centre, and demonstrated exceptional leadership in leading searches for the University Librarian and the Librarian of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Madam Kay Kuok, Chair of the College’s Governing Board, said, “Professor Lewis has demonstrated remarkable leadership in helping to launch the new College this past year. We were all very impressed by his enormous passion for the new College and his exceptional ability to identify the most important issues and to motivate and work with others to address them.”

“One of the key roles of the inaugural President is to create a dynamic community and energising environment that will enable the College to pioneer a truly innovative educational program and help realise the promise of this exciting initiative,” said NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan. “Professor Lewis is well-suited for this role. He also brings with him a deep knowledge and understanding of Yale.”

Yale President Richard C. Levin added, “Professor Lewis is a naturally talented academic leader, who has demonstrated his capacity for leadership in many important roles at Yale. Most significantly, he has displayed an impressive mastery of the needs of the new College and an infectious enthusiasm that will motivate others to work for its success.”

Professor Charles Bailyn, the inaugural Dean of the Faculty at Yale-NUS College and A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale, stated, “I am thrilled with this appointment. Professor Lewis is a long time colleague and I look forward to working with him in his new role in the years to come.”

With an undergraduate degree from McGill University and a doctorate from Stanford in 1997, Professor Lewis is a respected scholar of modern British and European literature. His three books were published by Cambridge University Press: Modernism, Nationalism, and the Novel (2000), The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism (2007), Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel (2010). His research connects literature with its social and intellectual context. He is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism (2011) as well as an editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature, which was published this spring. He is also an editor of The Norton Anthology of Western Literature, which will be published next year. Professor Lewis has received a variety of academic honours, including Whiting, Morse, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Fellowships, and awards for his contribution to extra-curricular and intellectual life, including the Graduates’ Society Award for Student Service at McGill and the Graduate Mentor Award at Yale.

Professor Lewis will be splitting his time during the next academic year between New Haven and Singapore while the planning for the new College advances. He and his wife and two children will move to Singapore full-time in early summer 2013 before the College opens in August 2013.

The Governing Board also announced that NUS Professor Lai Choy Heng will become Yale-NUS Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) on July 1, 2012. A theoretical physicist, Professor Lai has been Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at NUS since 2003. A member of the NUS faculty since 1980, he was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Science from 1996 to 2000, and Dean from 2000 to 2003. He has also served as Head of Department for Computational Science and Head of Department for Physics at NUS. Since 2007, he has held the concurrent appointment of Deputy Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies, a Research Centre of Excellence at NUS. Professor Lai received his undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Chicago. The recipient of NUS Faculty Awards for the teaching of physics and computational sciences, Professor Lai has published over 130 papers in internationally refereed journals.

NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan stated, “Yale-NUS is very fortunate to attract Professor Lai to this important academic position. Apart from his distinguished record of research and administrative leadership accomplishments, Professor Lai is passionate about liberal arts education and deeply believes in the potential for Yale-NUS College to pioneer a new model for Asia for the future. With his strong personal interest and expertise in Western classical music and Chinese Classics, he brings highly complementary qualities to the Yale-NUS leadership team.”

President Tan continued, “We are incredibly indebted to Professor Lily Kong, who has served with such dedication and effectiveness as the Acting Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) for the new College. She will return full-time to her academic leadership responsibilities in NUS this summer, but the College is very fortunate that it would be able to continue to tap on her wise counsel and insights going forward.”

Rounding out the new College’s senior leadership team is Mrs Doris Sohmen-Pao, who is already serving as Executive Vice President for Administration. Mrs Sohmen-Pao has held senior positions in both academic and business institutions. Most recently, she was the Director of Human Capital for Bain & Company, Southeast Asia, and had earlier served as the Director of INSEAD’s MBA Program overseeing the Singapore and France campuses. She held the same title at Singapore Management University where she developed and launched the MBA Program. Earlier in her career, Mrs Sohmen-Pao worked in New York, Hong Kong and London. She holds a BA in Politics and Environmental Studies from Princeton University where she was awarded the Class of 1901 medal given to the graduating senior whom classmates felt had done the most for the University. She served as an elected member of the Board of Trustees of Princeton University from 1993-1997 where she was a member of the Campus Facilities and Student Life committees. Mrs Sohmen-Pao completed an MBA at Harvard Business School in 1997. She has been a resident of Singapore since 2000.

NUS’ President Tan said, “Doris brings with her a rare combination of extensive administrative leadership experience and a deep understanding of academia and higher education. It has been a great pleasure working closely with her over the past few months. In particular, her passion for the College, focus and administrative abilities are most impressive.”

Yale’s President Levin said, “This is an outstanding leadership team which we confidently believe will guide Yale-NUS to success in the years ahead.”

Please refer to Annex 1 for the biographies of the Yale-NUS College leadership team.