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Dr Lee Kong Chian’s spectacular business success is surpassed only by his legacy of philanthropy. The man who would earn the title ‘Prince of Philanthropy’ came to Singapore from Fujian, China, in 1903 as a poor 10-year-old boy of little education. He went on to establish a multi-million dollar business, was Chairman of OCBC Bank till his death in 1967, and was the first Asian Chancellor of the University of Singapore (NUS’ predecessor institution). But what Dr Lee is remembered for most is his generosity to a host of causes, particularly education. The Rt Hon Malcolm Macdonald, former Chancellor of the University of Malaya, called Dr Lee “a superlative friend to education”. One of NUS’ principal benefactors, Dr Lee gave generously to the University of Malaya, the National Library, the Singapore Medical Research Fund to set up the Institute of Medical Specialities at Singapore General Hospital, and many other educational institutions in China and Malaysia as well as social causes. The Lee Foundation, which he established in 1952, carries on his sterling legacy. NUS established the Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professorship to honour one of the country’s legendary figures.
The Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professorship is awarded to eminent academics, who have demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement in their field of study and work at the forefront of intellectual enquiry. They contribute substantially to teaching, provide leadership in research and entrepreneurship and build industry partnerships. The Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professorship is supported by gifts from the Lee Foundation.