Ee Peng Liang


Ee Peng Liang (Dr) (b. 24 November 1913, Singapore–d. 24 August 1994, Singapore) was a local philanthropist and businessman. He was the founding member and president of the Singapore Council of Social Service (now known as the National Council of Social Service) and the Community Chest.1 Frequently referred to as the “father of charity” in Singapore, Ee was known for his charitable nature and voluntary work, for which he received numerous accolades.2 He also held key appointments in over 50 public organisations ranging from Christian welfare agencies, reformative institutions, public welfare bodies, and even women’s and Malay/Muslim associations.3

Early life
Born on 24 November 1913 in Singapore, Ee was one of seven children. His parents were Straits-born Chinese from Malaya; his father, Ee Seng Watt, was born in Muar and his mother, Theresa Lim Choon Neo, was born in Malacca.4


At the age of nine, Ee attended school at St Joseph’s Institution, which played a defining role in his conversion to Catholicism in 1933.5 After graduation, he worked for two years as a stenographer at the law firm Eber & Ong.6 In 1947, he became an accountant and set up his own accounting firm, Ee Peng Liang & Company. The company merged with international group Ernst & Whinney in 1986 to become the largest accounting firm in Singapore and Malaysia, and was later known as Ernst & Young.7 In 1957, Ee was appointed as a member of the Public Service Commission of Singapore, marking the start of his public service career.8

In 1976, the University of Singapore (today’s National University of Singapore) conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.9

Philanthropic work
While working as an accountant, Ee began volunteering at the Boys’ Town, of which he was appointed chairman in 1955. In 1947, he became secretary of the Good Shepherd Sisters’ Marymount Vocational Centre. Six years later, he founded and became vice-president of the Singapore Council for Social Service, and then became its president in 1964.10


Ee founded the Community Chest in 1983 as a division of the Singapore Council of Social Service.11 He had come up with the idea of having a common charity organisation in 1969 as a “community chest” where all donations could be kept and then allocated to various organisations.12 Since then, the Community Chest has become the largest charitable organisation in Singapore, and is known for its system of donation where donors can pledge a part of their monthly salary to the Chest through a scheme with local bank POSB and the direct debit service provider GIRO.13

As president of the Community Chest, Ee was known for his appeals to the public, especially the rich, to be more charitable and to donate to the poor.14 His methods and ideas, however, sometimes stirred controversy. In the 1960s, he advocated setting up a home for unwed mothers, a proposal that came under public criticism.15 Ee’s continued belief in the need of such a facility resonated with a client of his, resulting in a cheque for S$10,000 and the beginnings of Rose Villa.16 He also encouraged Singaporeans to make a donation of S$1 every month.17 In 1984, he suggested implementing an automatic deduction of S$5 from every POSB depositor’s account for the Community Chest, but this was never implemented due to public opposition.18

Despite these unconventional ideas, Ee continued issuing public reminders, even to children, to be generous. His methods included using emotional and thought-provoking slogans, as well as illustrating the far-reaching impact of even small donations on the needy.19 In 1984, Ee raised the issue of the “less-generous rich” in The Straits Times, saying that those who earned more usually donated less to charity due to financial commitments and expensive lifestyles.20 For his extensive efforts in the social service field, he was dubbed “Mr Charity” by Singaporeans and the “Robin Hood of Singapore” by then President Wee Kim Wee.21

A devout Catholic whose Christian name was “Joseph”, Ee was also an active member of the Catholic community and held key positions in several Catholic organisations.22 Following the detainment in May 1987 of 16 citizens, most of whom were Catholic Church members or volunteers, for suspected involvement in a clandestine communist network, Ee played an important role in organising a dialogue session between then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Catholic Church representatives in June that year. The purpose of the dialogue was to address any misunderstandings that the Catholic community might have had regarding the arrests.23

Awards
Ee retired as president of the National Council of Social Service and the Community Chest in 1992, after 50 years of voluntary service and more than 16 distinguished awards for his contributions, including the Public Service Star (1964), the Order of Nila Utama (1992) and the ASEAN Achievement Award (1994).24


In recognition of his work in the Catholic Church, in 1975 he became the first Singaporean to be conferred the title of Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great by the pope.25 In 1992, he was made a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of St Sylvester, one of the highest awards given by the Catholic Church to those who have been active in social work for more than 40 years.26

Several awards were also named after him in recognition of his contributions and legacy. In 1976, the Rotary Club established the Ee Peng Liang Trophy, an annual award presented to the Rotarian of the Year.27 In 1992, the National Council of Social Service established the Ee Peng Liang Award, Singapore’s highest award for voluntary work, of which he was the first recipient.28

Death
In 1994, Ee died of heart failure at his home in Katong, at the age of 81.29 His funeral was attended by former President Wee Kim Wee, who was also his closest friend, and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, among others.30


Family31
Parents: Ee Seng Watt and Theresa Lim Choo Neo

Siblings: Ee Eng Neo, Jolly Tan Boon Tee, Veronica Ee Kim Neo, Ee Poh Neo, Gregory Ee Peng Kee and Margaret Mary Ee Lian Neo
Wife: Mary Seow
Children: Theresa, Lawrence, Cecilia, Agnes and Gerard. In 1997, Theresa Ee-Chooi published a biography about her father, entitled Father of Charity and my Father.32 Gerard Ee is a past president of National Council of Social Service and currently chairs the advisory panel on advocacy and research.33



Author
Nuradilah Ramlan




References
1. Ooi, S. (1988, December 25). Santa Claus wears glasses. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lau, E. (1992, July 3). Mr Charity is first winner of award named after him. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997). Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, p. 414. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
4. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997). Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 15–16. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
5. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997). Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 58–64. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
6. More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ee Peng Liang to merge with Ernst & Whinney. (1985, August 22). The Straits Times, p. 2; Ernst and Ee Peng Liang to merge. (1985, August 23). The Business Times, p. 3; More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997). Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 219–222. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
9. More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of Charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 325–329. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
10. Ooi, S. (1988, December 25). Santa Claus wears glasses. The Straits Times, p. 19; More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, p. 371. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC); Community Chest. (n.d.). About Community Chest: Our beginnings. Retrieved 2016, August 29 from Community Chest website: http://www.comchest.org.sg/comchest/AboutCommunityChest/OurBeginnings/tabid/64/Default.aspx
12. Social worker wants one system for charity funds. (1969, October 17). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chest chairman again appeals to POSB depositors. (1985, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Wong, A. K. (1984, December 11). My heart bleeds for the rich. The Straits Times p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
15. Home for unwed mums a helpful haven. (1972, May 18). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 271–273. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
17. Chest chairman again appeals to POSB depositors. (1985, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, J. (1984, December 27). ‘$5 for charity’ appeal. The Straits Times, p. 1; Give, but give freely. (1984, December 28). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Danker, S. (1984, February 29). Share that pie with the needy. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Wong, A. K. (1984, December 11). My heart bleeds for the rich. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Chong, G. P. (1985, November 17). President calls him Singapore’s Robin Hood. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ee Peng Liang honoured by Catholic Church. (1992, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Ooi, S. (1988, December 25). Santa Claus wears glasses. The Straits Times, p. 19; Dr Ee satisfied with meeting. (1987, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 10; How the meeting at the Istana came about. (1987, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, p. 422. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
24. More than 50 posts and 16 awards to his name. (1994, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 8; Ee will not stop doing charity work on quitting. (1992, January 18). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Social worker Ee knighted by pope. (1975, March 2). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 323–324. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
26. Ee Peng Liang honoured by Catholic Church. (1992, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 492–493. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
27. Rotary Club of Singapore. (n.d.). About Rotary. Retrieved 2016, August 29 from Rotary Club website: http://www.rotary.org.sg/awards.html
28. Lau, E. (1992, July 3). Mr Charity is first winner of award named after him. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 481–486. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
29. Teo, G. (1994, August 25). S’pore’s father of charity, Ee Peng Liang, dies at 81. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. ‘His was a noble life’. (1994, August 29). The New Paper, p. 10; A final, fond farewell for Father of Charity. (1994, August 29). The Straits Times, p. 21; Miller, D. (1994, August 26). The needy have lost a father-figure: PM Goh. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions, pp. 562–563. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
32. Ee-Chooi, T. (1997) Father of charity and my father. Singapore: Raffles Editions. (Call no.: RSING 361.8092 EEC)
33. National Council of Social Services. (n.d.). About us: Our organisation. Retrieved 2016, August 26 from National Council of Social Service website: https://www.ncss.gov.sg/About-Us/Our-Organisation



Further resources
Fernandez, M. (1985, August 20). Mr Charity’s a credit in the business world too. The Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Peng Liang to step down as president. (1991, September 25). The Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Students urged to help the needy. (1977, April 25). The Straits Times. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Teik, L. C. (1991, August 25). Accolades pour in for the man they call Mr Charity. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
 

Subject
Ee, Peng Liang, 1913-1994
Community leaders
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Philanthropists--Singapore--Biography
Businessmen--Singapore--Biography

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