The spirit of Singapore
There are times when you can’t help but feel anything but overwhelmingly proud to be part of a great international institution like IU. Today in Singapore was such a day.
It was special, to say the least, to see so many IU Singaporean alumni (around 100) come together in their home country to celebrate and reconnect with their alma mater. The sheer size of the record gathering, which also included several future IU students from Singapore and their families – plus the pride and passion for IU exuded by all in attendance – was much more than members of the IU delegation could’ve expected. What’s more, the event highlighted IU’s ever-expanding impact here in one of Southeast Asia’s most diversified and dynamic economies.
Currently, IU has nearly 740 alumni affiliated with Singapore, nearly half of whom who live here in this small city-state (5.3 million people living across 276 square miles). And those numbers continue to grow steadily: IU has welcomed an average of 36 students from Singapore to its campuses over the last five years, as well as many other scholars and dignitaries. IU has also established a university-wide partnership agreement (and sub-agreements specific to its Kelley School of Business and Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI) with the National University of Singapore to foster student and faculty exchanges and other collaborative activities. NUS is the oldest and largest university in Singapore, and it is consistently ranked as one of Asia’s and the world’s top universities.
As IU President Michael McRobbie indicated in his remarks at the alumni gathering, many other ties exist between the state of Indiana and Singapore, such as a number of Indiana-based companies, including pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and diesel engine maker Cummins, that have subsidiaries in Singapore.
Of course, any business connection, alumni group or university partnership is only as good as the people behind it, and here, I’m happy to say, the IU-Singapore relationship is in good hands with alumni chapter leader Phillip Chua (MBA ’88), retired chief executive of the American Express Bank of Singapore. That nearly a third of all of the IU alumni and friends currently living in Singapore came out to tonight’s gathering was testament to the energy, drive and dedication of Chua, who stepped forward about 15 months ago to lead the Singapore chapter, and his staff, who are working diligently to recruit more students from Singapore to study at IU and enlist more alumni to participate in this effort.
Tonight, however, Chua had a little help, courtesy of IU President McRobbie, who shared with members of the audience IU’s many recent achievements and new academic developments, including its six new schools established in the last three years alone. McRobbie also commented on IU’s increasing international diversity (IU is 10th in the number of international students and fifth in the number of students who study abroad), which, he said, “helps prepare our students for careers in the global workforce.”
McRobbie then welcomed to the podium IU Maurer School of Law alumnus David L. Carden, who recently served as the first resident ambassador of the United States to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. As ambassador to ASEAN, Carden, a native Hoosier, oversaw the expansion of engagement between the U.S. and the nations of Southeast Asia, including Singapore. Recognizing his many accomplishments, notably his efforts to assist ASEAN’s member states in protecting and developing their natural and human systems, McRobbie presented Carden with the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion, given to individuals who have achieved a level of distinction in public office or service and have exemplified the values of IU.
Carden gave an impassioned speech, reflecting on the critical importance of a liberal arts education at a time when some would question its relevance, IU’s longstanding focus on global engagement, initiated by its legendary 11th president Herman B Wells, and, lastly, the man behind the medallion, Thomas Hart Benton.
Benton, Carden explained, is an inspiration, much like the late co-founder and CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, who studied calligraphy in college. Benton ignored his father’s advice to follow in his footsteps and go into government and, instead, pursued his true passion, painting. Today, his legendary mural paintings of Indiana life, which grace several IU Bloomington locations, showcase the timeless value of beauty, reflection and stimulating the senses, which, Carden said, drives not only great art, but also successful products and businesses.
That Thomas Hart Benton, so strongly associated with the culture of Midwestern U.S.A., didn’t seem out of place thousands of miles away here in Singapore spoke volumes about the incredibly strong connections between IU and its Singaporean alumni, whose spirited embrace of and enthusiasm for their alma mater this evening won’t soon be forgotten.
Tags: David Carden, Indiana University, IU, IU Alumni Association, Kelley School of Business, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Michael A. McRobbie, National University of Singapore, Phillip Chua, Singapore, Singaporean, Thomas Hart Benton