The National Library Distinguished Readers initiative honours prominent Singaporeans whose leadership and professional success in government, business, academia or the arts, have propelled Singapore onto the global stage.
NLB aims to give due recognition to these outstanding individuals by granting them privileged access to all the resources and support of research librarians of the National Library. NLB also offers its full support to those Distinguished Readers who wish to record their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of future generations.
The following prominent Singaporeans have been appointed as National Library (NL) Distinguished Readers:
Andrew Chew Guan Khuan
Dr Andrew Chew Guan Khuan served as Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC) from 1 August 1998 where he was appointed Member in 1997, until his retirement on 1 August, 2008. He has had over 40 years of experience in Singapore's Civil Service. Before he retired in 1994 as head of the Civil Service (1984 - 1994), he was concurrently the Permanent Secretary (Finance) (Public Service) in the Ministry of Finance and Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) in the Prime Minister's Office. He was Chairman of the Central Provident Fund Board, Pro-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore, Chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship, Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship Fund, Dr Goh Keng Swee Scholarship Fund, Institute of Defence and Strategies Studies and a Member of the Presidential Council for Minorities Rights and the Legal Service Commission.
Dr Chew was conferred the Distinguished Service Order in 2002 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Singapore and the public service. In 1994, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Dr Chew attended St Andrew's School and graduated from the University of Malaya in Singapore with an MBBS.
Professor Edwin Thumboo is an academic, poet and critic. He was conferred Emeritus Professor in 1997 by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and was appointed Professorial Fellow in 2005 with the Department of English Language & Literature, NUS. Prof Thumboo was the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, NUS for more than ten years, and was the Director of the NUS Centre for the Arts (1993 - 2005). He was awarded the Southeast Asia Write Award (1979), Cultural Medallion (1980) and the ASEAN Cultural and Communication Award in Literature (1987).
In the international scene, Professor Thumboo was appointed Chairman, Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, VII Triennium from 1983 to 1986. In 1987, he was a member of the International Advisory Panel, East-West Centre, Hawaii, USA, and Honorary Research Fellow, University College London. In 1993, he was a Visiting Fellow in the Dept of English, Australian Defence Force Academy.
Mrs Hedwig Anuar was the first Singaporean Director of the National Library and occupied this position from 1965 to 1988. Under her leadership, the library underwent many successful changes and development, including the implementation of children's programmes, services to teenagers and young people, expansion of the Southeast Asian collection, and a mobile library service. She was also a member of various committees of the then Ministry of Culture, including its Censorship Review Committee. In 1969, she was awarded the Public Administration Gold Medal.
Mrs Anuar was accorded honorary Life Membership by Persatuan Perpustakaan Malaysia (PPM) in 1973, honorary Life Membership of the Library Association of Singapore in 1980, and Honorary Fellow of the Library Association (Britain) and Her World's Woman of the Year 1993 award on March 1994.
Appointed Hon Secretary of the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) when it was founded in 1969, Mrs Anuar was Chairman of NBDCS from 1988 - 1995 upon retirement. From 1989 - 1993, she undertook consultancy work for the International Development Research Centre and the Library Information Development Consultations (LIDC). Mrs Anuar is also a founder member of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), and served in various capacities on its Ex-co. She initiated the Women Learning English (WISH) Programme of the Society for Reading and Literacy (SRL) of which she was a founder member.
Jean Marshall (nee Gray)
Mrs Jean Marshall (nee Gray) was born and brought up in UK. After studying at the London School of Economics she was trained in medical social work. In 1953 she took a job in Malaysia, in Pahang and then in Kuala Lumpur. Around this time professional training of social workers was starting at the University of Malaya in Singapore and in 1957 Jean was appointed to the staff. After her 1961 marriage to the former Chief Minister David Marshall, Jean continued to contribute to social welfare development as a volunteer, mostly with the Singapore Children's Society. She was also concerned with many other aspects of national development, and her interests now also include aspects of local history.
Jennie Chua Kheng Yeng
Ms Jennie Chua Kheng Yeng is currently President and CEO of Raffles Holdings Ltd and Chairman of the Community Chest. A very successful woman in the corporate world, Ms Chua has received more than five awards and recognition for work done in the corporate and voluntary fields since 1997. She was one of the 25 Stars of Asia, 2003 (Business Week); Woman of the Year 1999 (Her World magazine); Singapore Repertory Theatre Champion of the Arts Award, 1999; 1999 Hotelier of the Year, Travel Asia magazine and Independent Hotelier of the World 1997 (1st Asian woman & 1st Singaporean). During the same period, she was Director of more than 15 companies. She was the first woman Board Member appointed to the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce in 1998. Ms Chua was the Chairman of the Media Development Authority Board in 2003, Co-chairman, ERC Subcommittee on Domestic Enterprises, and Committee on Singapore's Competitiveness (Subcommittee on manpower and Productivity).
In the academic sector, she was a lecturer at the Asian Institute of Tourism, University of Philippines, President's Council of Cornell Women, Cornell University, and Councillor, Cornell University Trustees & Council, USA.
Mr JY Pillay served as Chairman of the Singapore Exchange Limited Board (1999-2010). He has been Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers since 2 September 2005 (member since 2 January 2001). Mr Pillay was one of Singapore's top-ranking civil servants and was one of the pioneers who helped build Singapore's economy. He has served in the Ministries of Finance, Defence and National Development and as Chairman of the board of several government-linked companies including SIA, Temasek Holdings and DBS. He was the Managing Director of MAS and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation from 1985 to 1989. Some of the organisations that he is currently involved in are the Singapore Indian Development Association, Investment Committee of the United Nations Pension Fund, the Board of Governors of Asia-Europe Foundation, the Assisi Home & Hospice, the Mount Alvernia Hospital, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, and the Singapore Hospice Council. Mr Pillay obtained a Bachelor of Science (Hons) First Class in Engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in 1965.
Koh Seow Chuan
Mr Koh Seow Chuan, a retired architect, is a founder of DP Architects Pte Ltd, the firm that designed the Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay. He was appointed Chairman, Singapore Art Museum in 2005 and served as Board Member from 1 August 2005 - 31 July 2007. Mr Koh helped to put Singapore on the philatelic map of the world. He brought prestigious exhibitions and competitions to Singapore and mounted important exhibitions. These included the late President Ong Teng Cheong's letters, as well as the 117th IOC Stamp Exhibition. He is also a world-renowned philatelist and avid collector of social historical documents, maps, antique books and art books.
Mr and Mrs Koh gave a long-term loan of their private collection to the National Library Board. The collection includes unique and out-of-print titles, hand-carried letters and petitions in their original form with signatures. Comprising some 2,500 items, the collection is open to the public to view and access.
Kwek Leng Joo
Mr Kwek Leng Joo is a well-known and respected member of Singapore's business community. Managing Director of City Developments Limited (CDL) and an Executive Director of Hong Leong Group Singapore, he contributes actively to the business and civic community. He is the Immediate Past President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Business Federation, Chairman of the National Youth Achievement Award Council (NYAA) Board of Trustees, Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Management Committee of the Chinese Language and Culture Fund and the People's Association Chingay Advisory Council 2007/2008.
Mr Kwek also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Nanyang Technological University, Chinese Development Assistance Council and National University Hospital Endowment Fund. He is also a member of the National Council on Problem Gambling. A keen supporter of the arts and an avid photographer, Mr Kwek has produced many works of art. Some of these pieces have raised close to half a million dollars in fund-raising activities for the President's Challenge and Ren Ci Hospital. In addition, his love for the arts has brought about his role as a Council Member of the National Arts Council, Honorary Chairman of The Photographic Society of Singapore, Honorary Advisor to the Singapore Colour Photographic Society, Patron of the NYAA Young Photographers Network, Honorary Patron of the Photo-Art Association of Singapore and Honorary Patron of Tampines Photo Imaging Club. He also sits on the Board of Directors of the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.
For his many outstanding contributions to the community, Mr Kwek was conferred the Public Service Medal in 2000 and more recently, the Public Service Star in 2005, by the President of the Republic of Singapore.
Lee Khoon Choy
Mr Lee Khoon Choy was a Senior Minister of State and a Member of Parliament for 25 years from 1959. He also served the Republic as an ambassador in eight countries including Egypt, Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Indonesia. Mr Lee is also an accomplished journalist, painter and businessman. He authored a book about his unique experiences as a minister promoting trade and diplomatic relations in China and meeting iconic leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. "Passage Through China - This Land so rich in beauty” also features many other diplomats, artists, scientists and business.
Ms Meira Chand, of Indian Swiss parentage, is the author of eight novels whose themes examine the conflict of cultures and the position of the outsider. Five of her novels, The Gossamer Fly,Last Quadrant, The Bonsai Tree, The Painted Cage and A Choice of Evils, are set in Japan. House of the Sun was set in India and was adapted for the stage in London where it had a successful run and was voted Critic’s Choice. A Far Horizon, is also about India in the early days of the Raj. Her latest novel, A Different Sky, is set in colonial pre-Independence Singapore.
Ms Meira Chand is an associate member of the Centre for the Arts, National University of Singapore and was Chairperson for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the region of South East Asia and South Pacific 2000 - 2002. She has been involved with the Creative Arts Programme for gifted children under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and the National University of Singapore since 1997 and was a Visiting Fellow and Writer in Residence at Mansfield College, Oxford University. She was born and educated in London, studied art at St. Martin’s School of Art and later specialised in textile design. She lived in Japan from 1962 to 1997, with a break of five years in India, and moved to Singapore.
Ngiam Tong Dow
Mr Ngiam Tong Dow served as Chairman of Surbana Corporation Pte Ltd. (2003- 2008). Prior to this, Mr Ngiam had a long and distinguished career in Singapore's public service. He was Permanent Secretary in several key government ministries, including the Ministry of Finance, the Prime Minister's office, and the Ministry of National Development. He was chairman of various statutory boards and companies, including the Economic Development Board, Development Bank of Singapore, Central Provident Fund Board and Singapore Technologies Holdings Pte Ltd.
Mr Ngiam was the director of numerous companies including Yeo Hiap Seng Ltd, United Overseas Bank Ltd, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, Precious Land Pte Ltd, Overseas Union Bank, Temasek Holdings Limited, Health Corporation of Singapore Pte Ltd and Singapore Airlines Ltd. He was on the board of the Port of Singapore Authority, SMRT Corporation Ltd, Post Office Savings Bank, Singapore International Foundation, and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Mr Ngiam was awarded numerous public service awards including the Distinguished Service Order in 1999. Mr Ngiam graduated from University of Malaya (in Singapore) in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Economics where he was awarded the Departmental Book Prize in Economics. He obtained a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard University in 1964 and the Public Service Fellowship. In 1985 he was awarded the Eisenhower Exchange Fellowship in USA.
Mr R. Ramachandran, is currently Executive Director, National Book Development of Singapore. He was awarded the "CONSAL Outstanding Librarian Award" at the CONSAL XIII Conference in Manila in March 2006 for his contribution to library development in Singapore and the region. Mr Ramachandran, former Director National Library and Deputy Chief Executive, National Library Board, joined the National Library Service in 1969. He spearheaded the early development of Branch Libraries, National Library services and library education in Singapore. He later played a pivotal role in the modernisation of the library system when it became a Statutory Board in 1995. He helped to set up the CONSAL Secretariat and was appointed its first Secretary-General. As Secretary-General, CONSAL, he travelled widely in the region providing training and promoting libraries and library cooperation intensively.
On an international level he served in several committees dealing with different aspects of library development. For several years he was Chairman of CDNLAO (Conference of Directors of National Libraries in Asia and Oceania) and President of the Library Association of Singapore. Following his retirement from the National Library Board, he was appointed as Secretary-General, International Federation of Libraries and Institutions (IFLA) in The Hague, Netherlands.
Tan Swie Hian
Mr Tan Swie Hian is Singapore's most celebrated multi-disciplinary artist. He published his first collection of modern poetry, The Giant, in 1968, a landmark in the history of modern Chinese literature in Singapore and Malaysia. To date, he has published 50 titles of poetry, essays, stories, criticism and translated works. Mr Tan is multilingual and is the first person to have translated works by literary giants such as Henri Michaux, Jacques Prevert, Samuel Beckett, Vaslav Nijinsky and Marin Sorescu into Chinese as well as works by great Indian philosophers such as Ramana Marhashi, J.Krishnamurti, Sri Aurobindo, and N.Chaitanya.
Mr Tan held his first art exhibition in 1973 at the National Library at Stamford Road and has since exhibited his works in numerous shows (solo and group) in Singapore and around the world.
Mr Tan was conferred the Chavalier de I'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by France (1978), the Singapore Cultural Medallion Award (1987), the World Economic Forum's Crystal Award (2003), the Meritorious Service Medal by the President of the Republic of Singapore (2003), and the Ossicier de l'Ordre National de la Legion d'Honneur, the highest honour conferred by France (2006). He is the only artist in Singapore to be given this prestigious award.
Mr Tan also won the Gold Medal in Salon des Artistes Francais, Paris (1985), the Marin Sorescu International Poetry Prize in Romania (1998), and the Seoul International Calligraphy Gold Medal (2002). Since 1987, Mr Tan Swie Hian has been the first and only Southeast Asian artist to be elected as a correspondent-member to The Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute of France.
Tang Wee Kit
Mr Tang Wee Kit, is currently Chairman & Managing Director of Tang Holdings Pte Ltd. He is also Board Member of the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) for the period 2005 - 2007. Graduated from Menlo College with a BSc. in Business Administration, in 1976, Mr Tang started his career as Personal Assistant to the Managing Director of C.K. Tang Limited in 1979, rose to the rank of Deputy Managing Director/ Director of Stores in 1991 - 1993, before taking over the helm as Managing Director of Tang Choon Keng Realty Pte Ltd (now known as Tang Holdings Pte Ltd). During his illustrious career, he has held directorships in local as well as overseas including Indonesia and South Africa.
Outside of the business world, Mr Tang also holds appointments in civic community and educational organisations. He was member of the Barker Road Methodist Church Redevelopment Committee (1988 - 1990 and was on the Board and Committees of various organisations including Anglo-Chinese Junior School (ACJS), ACJS Fund Raising & Building Committee and, Anglo-Chinese School Old Boys Association (ACSOBA). He was also Council Member of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) for the period 2001/02.
Mr Tang is an active member of the Young President's Organisation (YPO), membership of which is by-invitation-only and held position of Chapter Chairman for the period 2001 - 2002. He is currently also a member of the World President's Organisation (WPO).
Tommy Koh Thong Bee
Professor Tommy Koh Thong Bee is an Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1990. He is currently Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies, Chairman, National Heritage Board and Chairman, Executive Committee of the Chinese Heritage Centre. He was appointed Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations (concurrently accredited as High Commissioner to Canada), New York from 1968 to 1971 and again from 1974 to 1984 (concurrently accredited as High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico). He was Ambassador to the United States of America from 1984 to 1990.
Professor Koh was President of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea from 1980 to 1982. He was appointed the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to lead a mission to the Russian Federation, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1993 and was a member of three WTO dispute panels, chairing it twice. He was the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee and Singapore's Chief Negotiator for the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. He was the founding Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation.
Professor Koh was the Dean of the Faculty of Law in National University of Singapore (1971 - 1974) and the founding Chairman of the National Arts Council (1991 - 1996). Professor Koh has received numerous awards from the government of Singapore and overseas governments and organisations.
Mr Yatiman Yusof was former Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, and MP for Tampines GRC. He served as a Member of Parliament for five terms. In his 22 years as an MP, Mr Yatiman has held several key appointments in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. He was elected the Member of Parliament (MP) for Kampong Kembangan Constituency in 1984 and served as one of the MPs for the Tampines Group Representation Constituency from 1988 to 2006.
Mr Yatiman played a big part in the progress of the Malay community together with the Malay MPs, under the different leadership of Dr Ahmad Mattar, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi and Assoc Prof Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, and has managed to create a more positive political environment among the Malay community. Mr Yatiman also held key positions in Berita Harian and Berita Minggu up to 1986. He has been appointed Board Member of the 9th NParks Board with effect from 6 June 2006.