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Speech by Professor Ho Teck Hua, President & Distinguished University Professor at NTU Convocation 2023

Opening Address by

Professor Ho Teck Hua
President and Distinguished University Professor


19 July 2023

Nanyang Auditorium


President of Singapore, Madam Halimah Yacob,

Minister for Education, Mr Chan Chun Sing,


Board Chair, Ms Goh Swee Chen,

Members of the Board of Trustees,

Presidents Emeritus,




Alumni and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Good morning to all of you, and my heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2023!

Graduates, this is your moment. We are here to celebrate your achievements and hard work. And to salute the family members and loved ones who helped you reach this milestone. Today, each of you is receiving a degree from NTU. Some of you may be even more fortunate and will have met your life partners here.

I am optimistic that your experience at NTU has opened the doors to many possibilities and prepared you well for the next chapter of your lives. I am confident that you will thrive in the face of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Aside from celebration, graduation is also a time for reflection. Allow me to share three pieces of advice and make one request. This advice is inspired by the three exceptional individuals, who will receive honorary doctoral degrees this morning. As young adults starting your careers, you may find it hard to relate to these three high achieving individuals. After all, they are from a different generation with very different experiences from your own. However, all three made pivotal decisions in their youth that have taken them to where they are now. So, what you decide and what you do now does matter.

The first piece of advice is to be bold and take risks. Consider the career of Mr Philip Yeo, one of Singapore’s most accomplished government officials. In his forty-plus years of public service, Philip contributed to many areas. As the chairman of the Economic Development Board, his out-of-the-box thinking helped develop Singapore’s knowledge-based economy. I was fortunate to be working at the Economic Development Board at that time and saw first-hand a great man in action. To be honest, as a young officer I was quite scared of him! Philip was direct, intense, and fearless. As a leader, he made several bold and forward-looking decisions that have benefitted the nation. For example, he was the brains behind Jurong Chemical Island, which was created through massive land reclamation. It was also his idea to create the iconic Biopolis, which put Singapore on the world map for biomedical sciences. Philip also launched the training of 1,000 PhDs in biomedical science, physical science, and engineering, over 10 years. Indeed, Philip is a visionary leader. The book titled “Neither Civil Nor Servant, The Philip Yeo Story” not only describes his outstanding achievements, but also emphasizes his willingness to take risks. Philip’s career journey shows that we must face challenges head on. Be bold, take calculated risks, so that you can make an impactful difference in your community. Nanyang Business School has been fortunate to benefit from Philip’s wisdom and vision as chairman of the School’s Advisory Board since 2008.

The second piece of advice is to be adaptable and pursue your passion. For example, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden is a highly accomplished chemical engineer at the University of Cambridge. Not many people know that she had initially planned to become a teacher. She pursued a postgraduate certificate in education in preparation for this. But she could not forget the joys of scientific discovery from her undergraduate days. Her passion for research nudged her to pivot and return to university to pursue a PhD in physical chemistry. This adaptability allowed her to chart a new career path for herself. Today, Lynn is one of the leading researchers in the world on MRI technology. Lynn has also left her mark on Singapore’s research and innovation ecosystem. She was instrumental in reducing carbon in industrial processes in NTU’s collaboration with Cambridge University. Lynn’s journey shows that the career path you choose will not be linear. Your first job will not be your last. However, if you pursue your passion and are adaptable, you will always find an area in which you can excel and contribute. Over the years, I have tried to recruit Lynn to come to Singapore. Unfortunately, without success. However, I will never give up and keep trying!

My third and final piece of advice is to be curious and keep learning. Consider Ms Ho Peng, a highly accomplished educator who has dedicated her life to making generations of students future ready. This is a very noble goal. As director-general of education at the Ministry of Education, Peng led the development of the 21st Century Competencies Framework. This framework guides students on the learning of essential skills. Peng also cares deeply about the professional development of teachers. She has worked hard to ensure that teachers continue to learn as they progress through their careers. In Chinese we say 活到老,学到老, which means “learn for as long as you live”. Peng truly understands the need for lifelong learning. Her work laid the foundation to help you learn when you were young students. Now, as young adults, you should follow her belief. Be curious and keep learning. Therefore, today does not mark the end of your education. Instead, it is a step forward in your lifelong learning journey. The knowledge and skills you pick up along the way will help you to stay resilient in the face of disruptions. They will also help you seize new opportunities for career growth. Today, Peng continues to contribute to the educational sector as the chair of the Board of Directors of NIE International.

Now, my one request. An NTU education is more than just acquiring knowledge and skills. It expands your horizons and connects you to a world of opportunities. With so many opportunities comes a great responsibility to pay it forward. After all, education should never solely be for personal gain. I urge you to think about how you can uplift those around you. Lend your time and expertise to help people in need. Inspire and guide the next generation. Create opportunities for others to give them a better chance to succeed. As you pay it forward, you create a positive ripple of change. This extends the impact of your work beyond your individual achievements.

Today closes one chapter of your education at NTU. However, there are many more chapters to be written. Your connection to NTU is lifelong. I look forward to learning about the positive impact you will have on our community while pursuing your dream, whatever it may be. Finally, I want to thank our faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication to our students. I am sure that our graduates have also inspired and challenged you to become better educators.

Thank you, and many congratulations to the class of 2023.