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Outram Luminaries

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Dr Wee Kim Wee
 
Former President of Singapore

Dr Wee Kim Wee, Singapore’s beloved former President of the Republic of Singapore needs no introduction. 

Dr Wee died at 89 years old in 2005, due to prostate cancer. He was President from 1985 to 1993. 

Born on 4 November, 1915, Dr Wee started out as a clerk in the Straits Times before becoming a reporter. He also worked for the United Press Association and was its Chief Correspondent in the 1950s. He rose to fame in 1966 after securing an interview with General Suharto of Indonesia, who announced to the world that he wanted to end the three-year long confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia. 

He went on to serve as a diplomat for many years, and in 1984, he took up a new post as Chairman of the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. A year later, he became President, determined to make the Presidency as accessible as possible to ordinary Singaporeans. He was known as a People’s President, displaying a genuine concern for others and a natural warmth that touched many lives. He retired from the Presidency in September 1993. 

In 1927, Dr Wee was a Standard IV student at Outram School. In his book entitled ‘Glimpses and Reflections’, he relates how he had experienced ‘the magic wand’ of Principal Captain Goodman Ambler, as a punishment for poor results due to much time spent on ‘fun for boys of my age… from rounders, basketball, fighting fish, and mischievious exploits of one sort or another’, Dr Wee attributes the following experience as the turning point which made him focus on his studies. 

“… Like a first-rate magician he pressed the back of my neck with his magic wand to make me bend down more and more, until my buttock stuck out like the peaks of the Himalayas. Then, without even so much as an “Alakazam”, he brought the cane down. I almost fainted. But, that very instant Captain Ambler called, “Next”. It was the most happy word I had heard till that moment, for it meant that I had qualified for only one stroke… That stroke of the magic wand helped me turn 180 degrees… for me, I accept unequivocally that if Captain Goodman Ambler had not used the wand on me, I could have ended as a dropout and ruined my life. Deep in my heart I am fully grateful to him for performing his magic.”


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Mr Wong Kan Seng 

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home affairs

Mr Wong Kan Seng, studied at Outram Secondary School when it was still located at Outram Road. There, he picked up practical skills like book-keeping, shorthand and touch typing. Leaving Outram in 1963, he worked as a teacher before being recruited into the Administrative Service in 1967. After joining the Administrative Service, he obtained a diploma in Business Administration, and later, a Masters in the same subject. He occupied high positions in MINDEF and Hewlett Packard before joining politics in 1984. Mr Wong has been the Home Affairs Minister since 1994 and on 1 September 2005, he was also appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister. 

Mr Wong remembers his days at Outram, which was just a short distance away from Outram Prison. 

“Our teachers used to remind us, ‘Better do well in your studies, better be a good boy, a good citizen, if not you may land up there [Outram Prison], we have to see you from the outside.’ So that was the most impactful advice I think many students would take to heart. … We could still see the prisoners when they were out, I believe there was some kind of a garden or work which they were allowed out for short periods of time perhaps an exercise yard or whatever. And we could see some of them in their prison uniform. So we would never get near it, or never would want to get near the prison fence or wall at the time. Some of the teachers I remember are Mr Chan the Maths teacher, Mrs Quah, who taught us English, we have Mr Chew who taught us Chinese and we have Mr Goh who taught us book-keeping. There are many others, but these are the teachers whom I thought left some deep impressions.”

 
L3.pngProfessor Tommy Koh
 
Ambassador-at-Large

Professor Tommy Koh’s distinguished career has gained him recognition both at home and abroad, He is currently Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Director of the Institute of Policy Studies and Chairman of the National Heritage Board. He is also a Director of DBS Bank and Chairman of the Chinese Heritage Centre.

Prof Koh received a First Class Honours degree in law from the University of Singapore, a Masters degree in law from Harvard University and a post-graduate Diploma in Criminology from Cambridge University. He was conferred a full professorship in 1977. He was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) from 1968 to 1971 and again from 1974 to 1984. In between, he was the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Singapore from 1971 to 1974. As President of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from 1980 to 1982, he oversaw the successful phrasing of the convention’s text, which was completed by consensus, rather than the usual method of majority voting. He was the founding Chairman of the National Arts Council where he vigorously supported the development of the cultural and arts scene in Singapore. As the founding Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), he has worked to bring the civil societies of the two regions closer together. Most recently, he was Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. 

Prof Koh joined Outram School in the late 1940s after spending a bridging year at St Joseph’s Institution (he was previously from a Chinese school at Outram Road). At Outram, Prof Koh was known to be a good all-rounder who played badminton for the school and was a Scout too. In his recollections, Prof Koh noted that unlike him, most of his classmates were not from wealthy homes but stayed in humble homes in Chinatown and Tiong Bahru. This made a deep imprint on his mindset and attitude towards people, and he came to respect people irrespective of their background. 

“In Outram School, I had good teachers. They were very strict, as compared to today’s standard… The teachers were strict with you but they would sometimes wink at you. So I knew that although they were very tough they actually cared for you.”

 
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Mr Philip Tan Tee Yong 

Former MP for Paya Lebar

Mr Philip Tan Tee Yong is the owner and Managing Director of PTMC Outsourcing Pte. Ltd. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, he has over 40 years of experience in banking, accounting, finance, marketing and sales, commercial & banking software development, consulting, manufacturing and entrepreneurship. Having worked in MNCs and local companies, he is familiar with the two different management styles. He has also assisted in 3 IPOs and a Rights Issue. 

Mr Tan was a Member of Parliament (Paya Lebar) from 1984 till 1988. 






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Mr Koh Cher Siang 

Former Commissioner of IRAS

Mr Koh Cher Siang, joined the Administrative Service in 1969 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University on a President’s Scholarship. He obtained a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University in 1974. Mr Koh occupied various prominent positions in the Administrative Service and became the Commissioner of Inland Revenue and Chief Executive Officer, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore in 1997. He retired in 2005 and was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Housing and Development Board. 

During his time at Outram, Mr Koh was the secretary of both the Commerce Society and the Literary and Drama Society. He once served as Vice-Chairman of SAC for seven years beginning from 1980. In 1962, Mr Koh contributed the following gem to the school annual: 

[extract from full essay]
It seems that the floods bring nothing but unhappiness and terror. But this is not so. The pupils of Outram Secondary School love floods! Yes, they welcome floods! A rainy day with floods is a welcome deviation from the humdrum routine of everyday school life. Their joy and exuberant spirits are mirrored in their youthful faces when they wade cautiously through the swirling brownish water or balance precariously on the benches ingeniously placed in the tuck-shop to form a dry passage-way. Occasionally, a squeal of laughter, a splash and a cry of exaggerated anguish is heard in the tuck-shop… … All these things are in the game, however, and the pupils take it in good form. The pupils also welcome the opportunity to release their cramped toes from their tight shoes and wade barefeet in the icy-cold water. A very funny sight on rainy days is to be seen in the tuck-shop. Imagine looking at girls and boys standing high up on tables eating and drinking unconcernedly. It is such an awkward and unorthodox position to be in. 

- Koh Cher Siang, Sec. IV A. (Outram Annual, 1962).

 L6.pngBrigadier-General Patrick Choy 

Former Ambassador- Designate to Myanmar

Brigadier-General Patrick Choy is a distinguished military officer who rose to the upper ranks of the Singapore Armed Forces. Apart from his major duties, BG Choy was also active in Temasek Club -, the social and family club for SAF personnel, where he was the Chairman of the Social and Sports Committee in the early 1990s. In the late 1990s, he also served as Singapore’s Ambassador-Designate to the Union of Myanmar. 

BG Choy was the Guest-of-Honour at the 25th Old Outramians Association Celebrations, held on 5 Oct 1990 at Hotel New Otani. At the event, he had a special message for Old Outramians:

“Just as 1990 marks the beginning of a new decade, I hope it also marks the beginning of a new generation of success for the Old Outramian’s Association. All of us, former students of Outram, recognize the noble intention behind the founding of the Old Outramians Association. In the 25 years since the Association was first formed, we have seen the promotion of exchange and friendship gain momentum and prominence. This is due in no small way to the dedication and efforts of individuals on the Committee of the Association and support from members.” 


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Mr Fock Siew Wah 

Banker and former MRTC Chairman

Mr Fock Siew Wah is a prominent banker who sits on several Board Committees of DBS Group Holdings. Appointed on 1 July 1999, he began his career with DBS where his last position was Head of the Commercial Banking Division. He is currently the Senior Advisor of Nuri Holdings (S) Pte Ltd, Deputy Chairman of Fraser & Neave Ltd and Chairman of Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd. He is also a Director of Temasek Holdings (Pte) Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd. He was previously Regional Treasurer (Asia-Pacific) for J.P. Morgan, President and CEO of Overseas Union Bank Ltd. Chairman of the Land Transport Authority, Chairman of Singapore MRT Ltd, Special Advisor to the Minister For Finance, Singapore and Chairman of East West Bank in USA. 


 




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Mr Tommie Goh 

Entrepreneur, Founder of JIT Electronics Pte Ltd

Mr Tommie Goh rose from humble beginnings to become one of Singapore’s most well-known entrepreneurs today. Mr Goh was educated at Outram Secondary School From 1964 to 1968. After serving his National Service, he embarked on a military career from 1969 to 1981, before leaving to work in the electronics industry. Mr Goh founded JIT Electronics Pte Ltd in 1988, and the company grew to become one of the top 20 largest electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider in the world before its merger in August 2000 with Flextronics International, then No. 2 EMS provider in the world. JIT was listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange in 1997. Mr Goh also set up 2G Capital Pte Ltd, of which he is the Chairman and in 1997, he was awarded the Rotary-ASME Entrepreneur of the Year. In 1998, JIT Holdings Limited was awarded the Singapore Business Enterprise Award. In 1999, Mr Goh was named Businessman of the Year by Business Times. 

Besides making a name for himself in business circles, Mr Goh also contributes to the community in various ways. He is a Patron of the Serangoon Citizen’s Consultative Committee, Marine Parade GRC. In 2000, Mr Goh established the Tommie Goh Professorial Chair in Entrepreneurship at the Singapore Management University with a personal donation. In 2003, he contributed to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Mr Goh sits on the board of Nasdaq-listed Flextronics, the largest EMS provider in the world and is a board Director of Singapore Post Limited, Seksun Corporation Limited and Vision Technologies Inc USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Singapore Technologies Engineering Limited. Mr Goh is a member of the Pacific Basin Economic Council and sits on the panel of distinguished judges for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of The Year Award. 

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Mr Siew Shaw Her 

ex-Olympian

Mr Siew Shaw Her is an accomplished sailor whose passion and skills had done Outram and Singapore proud. A multiple SEA Games medallist and ex-Olympian, he was Sportsman of the Year in 1998 and he has amassed up to 7 golds and a silver medal to-date. In 1999, Mr Siew was ranked number 30 in a ranking of Singapore’s 50 Greatest Athletes featured in the Straits Times. 

Mr Siew was a student at Outram from 1971-1974, and 1976-1977. He has this to say about the Outramian Spirit:

“… From the end of Sec One, there’s this close feeling that whatever races you may have, even different kinds of classes… there is this nucleus that somehow pulls everyone together… This very intangible kind of Outramian’s well-being… since I got there, I felt we belong and are part of this same culture, this same family.”

 
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Mr Gurmit Singh 

Actor-Comedian

As the star of Phua Chu Kang the Ch 5 comedy, Mr Gurmit Singh is a well-known face who has starred in many programmes. But how many people are aware that behind the actor-comedian was an Outramian and a strict National Police Cadet Corps instructor. He was very firm with his cadets and demanded much discipline from them. However, he was also known to be a prankster- he was often seen playing the piano in the school auditorium after it was ‘locked’- by using a duplicate key that he secretly made! As an old boy, Gurmit has attended many Outram School events, sharing with students his experiences and inspiring them to follow their dreams. 


 



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Ms Ruby Lim-Yang 

Co-founder/Director of ACT 3

Ms Ruby Lim-Yang is the Co-founder/Director of ACT 3, Singapore’s foremost theatre company at making theatre for children. Since the company’s formation in 1984, Ruby has dedicated more than 20 years to promoting an interest and appreciation among the young for theatre. 

Ruby’ passion for drama and the arts is also evident in her academic pursuits. When she pursued her Masters in Advanced Theatre Practice at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama in 1998, her dissertation was titled, “Constraints form the springboard for creativity”.

In Singapore, Act 3 has worked with schools, the Ministry of Education and the National Arts Council to develop a wide-ranging programme of performances catering to specific audiences. Ms Lim-Yang and her Act 3 co-founders also started the Act 3 Drama Academy in 1994, which offers a carefully crafted syllabus catering to children from as young as 18 months to teenagers up to the age of 15. In 2000, Act 3 successfully implemented one of its most ambitious projects to date – a national arts festival for children entitled ‘Prudential Children First! Singapore International Festival for Children’. Ruby aims to tour the festival in the region and Act 3 is currently in discussions with counterparts in Kuala Lumpur. In future, Ruby hopes to make Act 3 an international name first in the region, then the rest of the world.
 
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Mr Bobby Chng 

Fashion designer

Mr Bobby Chng is a well-known homegrown fashion-designer turned interior designer, whose fashion creations can be found at department stores and upmarket boutiques all over the world.

Mr Chng was an Outramian in the late 1960s, and drawing has been his first love since young. Shy by nature, he found it easier to express himself through his talent in design, and his works could be seen everywhere in school. He made models for the Science Week and helped out with decorations in the school hall on special occasions such as Speech Day and Teacher’s Day.

Besides being good in art, Mr Chng also did well in Biology and Technical Studies. After graduation in 1973, he took up LCCI courses before doing his National Service. After NS, he obtained an apprenticeship with an advertising firm where he learnt graphic design. He then went on to design clothes for a company. After this stint, he founded his own company, and his fashion creations have since gone on to make waves in the region and the world. 

As an ex-ACS Primary boy, Mr Chng initially found the Hokkien-speaking environment strange. Coming to Outram broadened his horizons and changed his perspective on life as he got to know people from different family backgrounds. Mr Chng still stays in touch with the group of friends he made at Outram. 

Mr Chng continues to exemplify the Outramian Spirit through his contributions to Outram’s Building Fund. At the Farewell Dinner in 1993, guests were treated to a fashion show on Bobby Chng’s creations, modelled by present Outramians.