Published on 03 Sep 2021

Stars of service

Congratulations to the 1,188 alumni receiving a National Day Award this year in recognition of their various forms of merit and service to Singapore. Three recipients from different walks of life share their journeys and sources of inspiration.

By Janis Zhang

Established in 1962, the Singapore National Day Awards recognise individuals for their contributions to the nation. This year, 1,188 NTU alumni out of a total of 5,709 individuals received National Day honours. These outstanding alumni include Mr Sarjit Singh s/o Sarmukh Singh (NBS/1991), Dr Ting Kok Guan (NIE/2019) and Ms Carol Chia Jia Lin (EEE/2007).

We learn about their journeys, what makes them exceptional in what they do, and the motivation behind their work.


 

Mr Sarjit Singh and his wife Kiranjeet Kaur, with their twins, Ashlyn Kaur and Jaslyn Kaur. Source: The Straits Times 9 August 2021.

 

Mr Sarjit Singh, BBM (L) (NBS/1991)

Recipient of The Public Service Star (Bar)

A man of many hats, Mr Sarjit Singh, CEO Singapore at In.Corp Global has received multiple accolades throughout his illustrious career and for his contributions to the Singapore community.

Before he was awarded The Public Service Star (Bar), Sarjit was a recipient of three awards conferred by the President of the Republic of Singapore – the Public Service Medal (2007), the Public Service Star (2011) and the SkillsFuture Fellowship (2019). The University has also presented him with the Nanyang Alumni Service Award (2006) and the Nanyang Alumni Achievement Award (2012). 

The 54-year-old father of twin girls credits his successes to the many role models around him, especially his late father, who remained resilient and continued serving as a Grassroots Chair by day and a school watchman by night despite having had a stroke. Recounting fond memories of his father, Sarjit said: “As a little boy, I accompanied him on his walks through the neighbourhood and helped him write down issues that needed to be resolved for the residents. The following day, I would listen to my father calling the relevant authorities to resolve these issues.” 

“Subsequently, when I followed him through the neighbourhood, the residents would come up to thank my father for his help. I saw the happiness on their faces, and this was the start of my interest and sense of fulfilment in serving the community.” 

His father passed away when Sarjit was ten. However, his father’s passion to serve his community and help others stayed with Sarjit and inspired him to do the same. “From him I learnt the impact just one person can have on so many lives. I learnt how to creatively solve problems and have a positive impact on those around me. The life skills I learnt from him shaped my character and values.”

Carrying on his father’s legacy and spirit in public service, Sarjit has volunteered in various capacities for multiple public bodies over the years. Currently, he is a District Councillor at Central Singapore Community Development Council and represents Central Singapore on OnePeople.sg that champions racial and religious harmony. He is also the Vice President of the Singapore Indian Development Association that seeks to “uplift educational aspirations and strengthen social resilience in the Singapore Indian community”. At the same time, he serves as Chairman of Learning and Assessment Committee - Foundation Programme at the Singapore Accountancy Commission to help build a vibrant and future-ready Accountancy profession in Singapore.

As a “huge believer of giving back”, Sarjit and his wife Kiranjeet Kaur established an endowment fund at NTU in 2010 to support outstanding students in Nanyang Business School. Apart from fundraising for needy students, he was an Adjunct Associate Professor at NTU from 2010 to 2016 where he worked hard to inspire his students to “live their dreams, to learn more, to do more, to share more and become more”. 

“I believe that having a good role model helps to inculcate the values of good citizenship in the youth as it did in me, and I would like to share this passion with others to ensure that our youth are actively engaged and connected to the community.”

Asked how he would encourage people to be involved in community service, Sarjit said: “The secret sauce is to surround yourself with people that inspire you, that mean the best and want the best for you.”

He adds: “We always rise, by lifting others. We are rewarded by peace in knowing that we did the right thing in service and in significance.”


 
 Dr Ting Kok Guan (far left) with his sister and parents

Dr Ting Kok Guan (NIE/2019)

Recipient of The Public Administration Medal (Silver)

Dr Ting Kok Guan is a veteran lifesaver who “saves starfishes” and improves the lives of many, especially students and individuals with disabilities.

He has been involved in the work of imparting lifesaving skills and techniques to people with disabilities. This project was the combined brainchild of Dr Ting, NTU’s former Associate Professor Lok Tat Seng, the Singapore Life Saving Society, the Handicapped Welfare Association, and a group of young volunteers. Apart from learning lifesaving skills, some of the participants see this as a form of therapy to improve their mobility. The team’s good work has attracted the attention of associations overseas, and was invited to share its approach and techniques with participants in Penang and Mexico. In 2002, Dr Ting and his team of coaches were presented the National Youth Award (Group) by the then Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

Dr Ting, the Director of College Services at ITE College Central, has also coached ITE students in lifesaving. Many of these students have acquired the Bronze Medallion certificate, which enables them to become lifeguards in swimming pools and to supplement their pocket money, especially beneficial for those from financially challenged families.

While Dr Ting will be turning 56 this month, he continues to maintain his stamina and endurance by swimming and lifting weights to ensure he can continue teaching lifesaving skills to his students.

“Community work requires commitment and patience with participants. While not all efforts put in may translate to a positive outcome, it can be very satisfying especially when you see the transformation of those whom you have helped,” said Dr Ting. 

“As the saying goes, everyone we help is like bringing a starfish washed ashore back into the water. If everyone could put in some of their available time to help a few, cumulatively as a society, the impact would be great,” he said, recalling “The Star Thrower” story by American writer-philosopher Loren Eiseley.


 

Ms Carol Chia with her husband and daughter.

 

Ms Carol Chia Jia Lin (EEE/2007)

Recipient of The Commendation Medal 

An electrical engineering graduate from NTU, Ms Carol Chia’s affinity with her alma mater did not end with graduation. She has been working at NTU’s Legal and Secretarial Office (LSO) for 10 years, starting off as a support staff member in the Research Contracts group at LSO, later moving on to reviewing, negotiating and finalising research contracts and agreements. Three years ago, she progressed to her current role as Manager, Legal Operations, to manage LSO’s internal processes and database systems. As well as overseeing the day-to-day operations in LSO, her job involves conceiving ways to improve work processes with the help of technology. 

With her engineering background, working in LSO has felt like a different experience for her. “It is definitely a different space, but I would say that having the engineering degree did help in this transition – in looking at systems and processes, and databases and platforms.” Her engineering training has also enabled her to be more receptive to new platforms and solutions.

Carol is a recipient of this year’s National Day Awards’ Commendation Medal, which is awarded to individuals who have distinguished themselves through “commendable performance and conduct…in the service of any organisation rendering services in the field of education.”

On how she stays motivated at her job, Carol said: “I think it’s helpful to find a role that you feel you can align your purpose with, is meaningful, and where you can find fun and enjoyment.” 

“I would also like to thank my colleagues, managers and NTU for their support and leadership throughout the years,” she added.


View the full list of our alumni recipients.