Published on 17 Nov 2023

Gifts that connect the generations

Two alumni donors share why they chose to support specific groups of students at NTU and how their gifts have led to connections with the next generation.

Text: Samantha Lim

Jing Hui (left) meeting Mr Chen (middle) for the first time and presenting him with a thank-you card.

Tan Jing Hui’s love for reading began at a bookstore in Jalan Besar. She would visit with her parents every month, losing herself in Chinese books for children. Ten years later, that same bookstore is helping Jing Hui pursue her Chinese literature studies at NTU’s School of Humanities.

Currently a Year 3 student, Jing Hui received the Shanghai Book Company Scholarship last year, which allowed her to reduce the time spent working part-time and concentrate on her schoolwork as well as her leadership duties with the Welfare Services Club.

The scholarship enabled Jing Hui to wholeheartedly pursue her role as Overseas Volunteering Expedition Chairperson for the Welfare Services Club in the last academic year.

Building on a family legacy

Established in the 1920s, the Shanghai Book Company was recognised as a key player in shaping Singapore’s early Chinese literary and cultural scene. The bookstore brought new books and exciting ideas from Shanghai and quickly found success in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

In 2008, when its main shareholders – Mr Chen Mong Tse (Science/1959), his wife Mdm Chai Chu Chun (Arts/1959), and his sister Ms Chen Mong Sing (Arts/1959) – decided to close the family business, the three of them unanimously decided to donate S$1 million from the proceeds to NTU.

Their donation formed a variety of bursaries and scholarships, allowing the Chens to support students at different stages of their academic journey. For example, one of the scholarships – the Mdms Chen Mong Hock, Linda, & Chen Mong Sing Scholarship – has a freshman and graduate version. The freshman scholarship goes to academically gifted students just starting out in the Chinese programme, while the graduate scholarship is awarded to students to encourage them to pursue Chinese studies at a higher level.

“The Shanghai Book Company received such great support from the Chinese communities in these regions,” Mr Chen shares. “When we sold the company, we wanted to pour the proceeds into educating the children of these communities.”

“As graduates of the Nanyang University, NTU’s predecessor institution, my family has always had a deep connection with the University. Naturally, we decided to use our gift to support the Chinese programme.”

Passing on the gift of education

For Mr Goh Soon Hong (NBS/1995), his reason for setting up a scholarship ran to one word: gratitude.

“Back in my time, you were considered extremely fortunate if you could go to university,” Mr Goh reminisces. “I benefited so much from having a good education, and I wanted to offer someone that same opportunity as well.”

A banking veteran with over 25 years of experience, Mr Goh became a new donor to NTU this year. He created the Yu En (育恩) Scholarship, which translated, means “gratitude for one’s education”. The scholarship, which prioritises talented but financially disadvantaged students in its selection process, provides a business undergraduate with S$10,000 annually across a period of four academic years.

Mr Goh chose to support his Nanyang Business School (NBS) juniors, crediting the School for its role in his achievements today.

“Back then, many of my friends were going to another local university to study business administration. But I chose NTU, because it had everything I wanted. It allowed me to specialise early in banking and find my path. It’s also where I made lifelong friendships with my batchmates, and NBS seniors and juniors. Till today, many of us work alongside each other in the banking industry, and those relationships started at NTU.”

“It can be challenging to juggle both school and part-time work, just to fund your education,” Mr Goh shares. “Through the scholarship, I want to relieve my beneficiaries of their financial worries, so that they can focus on learning as much as they can.”

Bonds forged through giving

Both the Chens and Mr Goh see their gifts as more than just a donation – as a doorway to new relationships with the next generation.

Mr Chen makes it a point to meet up with Shanghai Book Company scholarship students every year. He and Jing Hui met for the first time in July.

“I was quite nervous at first,” Jing Hui confessed. “But Mr Chen was so warm and friendly. You could see that he was genuinely interested in each of us – he asked us about our families and why we chose Chinese studies.”

“I also had the opportunity to thank him for the scholarship. It really helped me a lot last year, as I was juggling schoolwork, leadership duties in the NTU Welfare Services Club, and giving part-time tuition. With the scholarship, I could cut back on my part-time work and focus on growing as a leader and a person.”

“I enjoy meeting and getting to know the students,” Mr Chen shares. “As I do so, I’m comforted to see how the legacy of the Shanghai Book Company lives on, and will continue to strengthen Chinese communities for a very long time.”

Mr Chen with the Shanghai Book Company scholarship and bursary beneficiaries at a meet-up in July this year.

Likewise, Mr Goh hopes to serve as a personal mentor to his scholarship recipients.

“At NBS, our lecturers and tutors were business practitioners themselves. They would share real-life experiences and insights, which better prepared me to take on the industry.”

“Now that I’ve been working in banking for a good number of years, I hope to do the same for the students,” Mr Goh says. “It’s always more meaningful if my experiences can be used to benefit someone and help them go further in life.”

Creating a named bursary or scholarship is a great way to support needy students. Bursaries and scholarships are typically named in honour of donors or individuals that the donors wish to commemorate. Donors can specify the school or group of talent they would like to support.

For an endowed bursary or scholarship, similar to those set up by Mr Chen’s family, the principal sum contributed is invested for the long term, generating perpetual returns. The financial assistance disbursed to students comes from the income generated by the bursary's investments. To establish an endowed bursary or scholarship, a minimum sum of S$150,000 is required.

A term bursary or scholarship, such as Mr Goh’s, uses the donated sum until the funds are depleted. The minimum amount needed to establish a term bursary or scholarship ranges between S$40,000 and S$50,000.

To learn more about named bursaries and scholarships, as well as to discuss and plan your philanthropic aspirations, get in touch with the University Advancement Office at [email protected].


This article first appeared in issue 4 of U, the NTU alumni magazine.