Photos courtesy of the Singapore, Ministry of Culture, 1979. You can view more photos of the event here.
Singapore Polytechnic was never far from his mind
Many people may not know that the late Former Prime Minister (PM) Lee Kuan Yew left his footprints on our campus over three decades ago.
He officiated the opening of Singapore Polytechnic's (SP) campus on Dover Road, on 7 July 1979. More significantly, he envisioned and believed in the pivotal role of SP in Singapore's development. Hence, he was instrumental in the growth of Singapore's first Polytechnic.
Former PM Lee addressing the invited guests when he officiated the opening of SP's Dover Campus in 1979.
Defining SP's Mission
As early as 1959 when Former PM Lee made his first official visit to SP, he impressed upon Singaporeans the importance of expanding poly education if "we are to teach our young people how to earn a living in the new conditions Singapore finds itself." He clearly understood the implications if Singapore were to steer away from industrialisation when he cautioned "…
there is no way by which our entrepot trade can continue to give employment to our rapidly growing population."
Fast forward 20 years later to 1979, Former PM Lee graced the opening of SP's new campus on Dover Road, with facilities focusing on electrical, electronics and communication, mechanical, marine and shipbuilding, civil engineering, building, chemical process technology and nautical studies. His steadfastness in staying on course to expand the poly education sector was evident when he concluded in his address, "This new campus
marks our resolve to provide our young with the opportunities to climb higher up the technological ladder. The never ending search of new knowledge, new skills and the perfection of old skills is what ensure that we progress."
Guests at the official opening ceremony of SP's Dover campus (1979)
First local SP Principal Mr Khoo Kay Chai (1976 to 1995) showing Former PM Lee a model of the Dover campus. Looking on were then Ministers Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Dr Ahmad Mattar (far left) and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew (far right) (official opening SP Dover Campus, 1979)
Former PM Lee being shown an exhibit by an SP staff member (official opening SP Dover Campus, 1979)
Former PM Lee stopping to admire an exhibit on the preservation and encapsulation of orchids (official opening SP Dover Campus, 1979.
And progressed SP certainly has. From a humble enrolment of only 800 students in 1959, today SP welcomes about 15,000 students daily. In the last 60 years, SP is proud to have produced over 178,000 graduates, many of whom Mr Lee shared '…have become successful entrepreneurs and high level executives."
(SPGG Fund Raising Dinner Speech, 26 Oct 1991)
Records show that Former PM Lee's support towards SP extended beyond official visits over the years. He also attended students' union meetings and SP's Graduate Guild events.
Recounting Former PM Lee's involvement in SP, alumnus S.K. Balakrishnan shared that it was Mr Lee who mooted the idea of an SP Graduate's Guild. In 1971, when the Guild was registered, Mr Lee agreed to open the Guild, much to the surprise of Bala and the committee members.
Such is the importance Mr Lee placed on SP and poly education. In his address to the Guild, he announced that
"… of our post-secondary educational institutions, the Polytechnic has been a most worthwhile investment."
Tribute to Singapore Icon
Many of today's youth would only know Former PM Lee from textbooks - his fight against the communists, the merger-separation of Singapore from Malaysia, he being Singapore's first prime minister and the ruling government party he founded – People's Action Party.
For those who had the opportunity to be led by him from 1959 – 1990, it is an undeniable fact that he did lead Singapore to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world, an achievement very few world leaders can lay claim to.
Thank you Former PM Lee. We shall miss you dearly.
For those of you who had the opportunity to interact with Mr Lee or wish to pay tribute, we invite you to pen your reflections
contributions, we hope the young Singaporeans of today will come to know the man who is truly the founding father of modern Singapore.