The Tan Lark Sye Professorship in Chinese Language and Culture, funded by donations of Nantah alumni, was established in commemoration of the late Nantah founder, Mr. Tan Lark Sye, to honour him for his great contributions to education, and to pass down and spread the convictions of Mr. Tan Lark Sye and our forefathers in setting up the university and schools, so as to promote the research and development of the Chinese language and culture. The interest income of the aforementioned professorship is mainly used to invite internationally renowned scholars to deliver high-standard public lectures and academic seminars, in order to benefit the public and raise social awareness and concern for issues with regards to the Chinese language and culture. The contents of the lectures and seminars are then published under the Tan Lark Sye Professorship in Chinese Language and Culture Public Lecture Series.
The public lecture series (both the events and the books) have gained much recognition from the Chinese community in Singapore through the years to be of high standard and academic value. It is also one of the goals of the professorship to make high-standard academic events appealing to the general public in Singapore.
Mr Tan Lark Sye was an eminent entrepreneur, community leader and philanthropist. In the face of all the challenges under the adverse circumstances of the time, it was Mr Tan Lark Sye, who, with a dauntless and fearless spirit, provided the funds and leadership for the founding of Nantah, which the Nanyang Technological University now stands.
Mr Tan Lark Sye was born in 1897 in Jimei Village, Tong'an County of Fujian Province in China. He came to Singapore at a young age of 18, and worked in a rubber manufacturing factory owned by Mr Tan Kah Kee. Eventually Mr Tan emerged as a prominent leader in rubber trading. in 1925, he started his own business and founded the Aik Hoe & Co Pte Ltd on Beach Road, which, by 1938, had become the largest rubber exporting firm in Singapore and Malaya, with its business all over Indonesia, Thailand, Europe and America.
With the noble philosophy of "what one earns from society, one should contribute back to society," Mr Tan Lark Sye was a keen philanthropist. He also took an active role in community services. Mr Tan's most outstanding contribution was his call and efforts made for the establishment of Nantah --- the first Chinese university outside of China. The Hokien Huay Kuan, under Tan Lark Sye's leadership, donated the Yunan Garden, a piece of land of 523 acres, for the site of Nantah. And Mr Tan himself donated $5 million. Mr Tan's proposal for the establishment of a Chinese university received enthusiastic support from Chinese communities all over Southeast Asia. People from all walks of life donated generously to the university's foundation fund.
Chairman of Nantah from 1956 till 1963, Mr Tan Lark Sye passed away on 11 September 1972 at the age of 75. A generous philanthropist and an ardent support of education, Mr Tan Lark Sye was greatly admired by people from all walks of life.