Tan Kah Kee Foundation

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala

The Tan Kah Kee Foundation was originally known as the Tan Kah Kee Scholarship Fund. It was established by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1961 in honour of Tan Kah Kee (陈嘉庚), a prominent Chinese businessman, pioneer and philanthropist, who contributed extensively to the field of education in Singapore by setting up several educational institutions. The Tan Kah Kee Scholarship Fund became the Tan Kah Kee Scholarship Trust Fund in 1968; it was converted into the Tan Kah Kee Foundation in 1982.1

History
Tan Kah Kee (b. 21 October 1874, Jimei, Tong'an, Quanzhou, Fujian, China–d. 12 August 1961, Beijing, China) arrived in Singapore in 1890 as a 17-year-old seeking and making his fortune within the next 50 years.2 Besides building up a huge business empire comprising pineapple canning, brickwork, shipping, and rubber manufacturing and processing, Tan was also a philanthropist devoted to the cause of education. He helped set up many schools here, including the Tao Nan School, Ai Tong School, Nan Chiau High School and Chongfu Primary School.3


In 1918, Tan founded the first Chinese secondary school in Singapore, Nanyang Chinese High School, at Bukit Timah Road.4 He also donated a large amount of money to establish Anglo-Chinese School and Raffles College. In 1956, along with Tan Lark Sye, Tan co-founded Nanyang University, the precursor of the present-day Nanyang Technological University, and the National University of Singapore.5

When Tan passed away in August 1961, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce held a memorial service in his honour on 10 September. The memorial service drew a crowd of more than 5,000 representatives from over 280 associations and clans who came to pay their respects.6 With a donation of S$100,000 by the participants, the Tan Kah Kee scholarship fund was established during this event to keep Tan's spirit of education alive.7 The first two undergraduate scholarships limited to science students at the University of Singapore and Nanyang University were announced in April 1968.8 Subsequently, scholarships were extended to Ngee Ann Technical College and Singapore Polytechnic in 1973.9 In 1982, the fund was converted into the Tan Kah Kee Foundation, with plans to raise $5 million in five years and to grant awards to people who have made outstanding contributions to society.10 By September 1983, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced that over $4.4 million had already been raised.11

The Foundation also began offering postgraduate scholarships starting with the Tan Kah Kee Postgraduate Fellowship in 1983.12 This was followed by the Tan Ean Kiam Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities in 2011; and the Li Siong Tay Postgraduate Scholarship launched in 2018.13

Other activities
In 1986, Nobel Laureate Professor Yang Chen Ning, an advisor and mentor of the foundation, raised the idea of a Young Inventors' Award to encourage young people to be innovative and creative.14 The Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors' Award was thus established that year with two categories: "Open" and "Student".15 A third Defence Science category was introduced in 2002.16

Since 1984, the foundation has been inviting prominent scholars and professionals from various countries to hold lectures on topics related to science, education and arts for the Singaporean public. Known as the Tan Kah Kee Forum, the public lectures have been delivered by eminent personalities such as Nobel Laureates Yang Chen Ning in 1987 and Lee Yuan Tseh in 1988.17


The foundation also made a donation of $1.5 million to the NTU Endowment Fund; this was matched by the government for a total of $3 million to establish an NTU Professorship. The Tan Kah Kee Professorship was launched on Tan Kah Kee's birthday, 21 October 1996,18 with Daniel W.Y. Kwok, Emeritus Professor at the University of Hawaii, being its first awardee. Kwok was appointed the Tan Kah Kee Professor in History at the National Institute of Education.19

Pioneers’ Memorial Hall in Ee Hoe Hean Club
When the Ee Hoe Hean Club was reconstructed in 2002–2007 due to damage caused by MRT works, the Tan Kah Kee Foundation contributed $1 million and started a Pioneers’ Memorial Hall on the Club’s ground floor that opened in 2008.20 The Hall featured Tan Kah Kee and other Chinese pioneers such as Lee Kong Chian, Lim Nee Soon and Lim Chwee Chian.21 Tan Kah Kee was one of the Club’s past Chairmen, and had used the Club to raise money to fight the Japanese from the 1920s to the 1940s.22

Similar foundations
In 1998, Tan Kah Kee’s relatives founded a Tan Kah Kee prize and entrusted it to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.23 In 2003, this became the Tan Kah Kee Science Award Foundation which awards prizes to scientists from China on a biennial basis.24 In 2011, the Malaysian Tan Kah Kee Foundation was started to promote the Tan Kah Kee spirit and establish a Tan Kah Kee Memorial Hall.25



Authors

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja & Timothy Pwee



References
1. Tan Kah Kee forum to focus on information technology. (1989, November 28). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan Kah Kee Foundation. (n.d.). About the foundation. Retrieved 2017, June 12 from Tan Kah Kee Foundation website: https://www.tkkfoundation.org.sg/; Yong, C. F. (1987). Tan Kah-Kee: The making of an overseas Chinese legend. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 354. (Call no.: RSING 338.040924 YON)

2. Yong, C. F. (1987). Tan Kah-Kee: The making of an overseas Chinese legend. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 338.040924 YON); Hew, K. Y. (1995). Tan Kah-Kee: Pictorial stories of a legendary overseas Chinese in English and Chinese. Singapore: Confonian, p. v. (Call no.: RSING 338.04092 HEW) 
3. Yang, J. F. (1987). Chen jiageng xian sheng zhuan lue [A short biography of Tan Kah Kee]. Xin jia pao: Chen jia kang ji jin li shi hui,p. 11–23. (Call no.: RUR 959.57020924 YCF);
4. Yong, C. F. (1987). Tan Kah-Kee: The making of an overseas Chinese legend. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 88, 106, 110. (Call no.: RSING 338.040924 YON)
5. Yong, C. F. (1987). Tan Kah-Kee: The making of an overseas Chinese legend. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 18, 110, 140, 304. (Call no.: RSING 338.040924 YON); Tan Kah Kee Foundation. (n.d.). About the foundation. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Tan Kah Kee Foundation website: https://www.tkkfoundation.org.sg/;Yang, J. F. (1987). Chen jiageng xian sheng zhuan lue [A short biography of Tan Kah Kee]. Xin jia pao: Chen jia kang ji jin li shi hui, pp. 11–23. (Call no.: RUR 959.57020924 YCF)
6. Nobel Laureate to deliver Tan Kah Kee lecture. (1988, October 5). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan Kah Kee Foundation. (n.d.). About the foundation. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Tan Kah Kee Foundation website: https://www.tkkfoundation.org.sg/; Yong, C. F. (1987). Tan Kah-Kee: The making of an overseas Chinese legend. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 338.040924 YON)
7. Millionaires at meeting. (1961, September 11). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. 2 study grants by TKK trust. (1968, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan Kah Kee annual grants. (1972, July 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

10. New foundation to present ‘honour awards’. (1982, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. $200,000 boost for scholarship fund. (1983, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 陈嘉庚基金今年起颁高级学位奖学金. (1983, June 3). 联合早报, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. 林慧慧. (2011, August 6). 陈嘉庚基金会助研究生圆梦: 增设陈延谦高级学位奖学金(人文). 联合早报, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Facing challenges with resilience and innovation while giving back. (2018, July 19). Singapore Government News. Retrieved from Factiva database; Tan Kah Kee Foundation. (n.d.). Postgraduate scholarships. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Tan Kah Kee Foundation website: https://www.tkkfoundation.org.sg/postgraduate-scholarships

14. Nobel Prize physicist may chair forum next year. (1986, October 28). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Chng, G. (1986, May 23). Search is on for young inventors. The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. That award-winning idea may be a money-spinner. (2002, March 24). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Nobel scientist to give talk today. (1987, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 17; Nobel Laureate to deliver Tan Kah Kee lecture. (1988, October 5). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. A professorship to mark Chinese legend Tan Kah Kee’s birthday. (1997, January). NTU News, n. 23, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 NTUN); Tan Kah Kee Foundation. (n.d.). University endowment fund. Retrieved 2020, April 3 from Tan Kah Kee Foundation website: https://www.tkkfoundation.org.sg/university-endowment-fund
19. A professorship to mark Chinese legend Tan Kah Kee’s birthday. (1997, January). NTU News, n. 23, p. 1. (Call no.: RCLOS 378.5957 NTUN); Asad, L. (1998, September 4). China will survive, and benefit from democracy. The Straits Times, p. 59. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Leong, W. K. (2008, October 19). Historic gentlemen’s club opens its doors. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Leong, W. K. (2008, July 17). Hall to honour Chinese pioneers. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Luo, S. (2008, November 10). ‘Hall of fame’ for pioneers of finance. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Luo, S. (2008, November 10). ‘Hall of fame’ for pioneers of finance. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. 陈嘉庚科学奖基金会全新亮相: 三千万本金实行资本运作. (2003, June 19). 中国经济信息网. Retrieved 2019, May 31 from Factiva database.
24. 陈嘉庚科学奖基金会全新亮相: 三千万本金实行资本运作. (2003, June 19). 中国经济信息网. Retrieved 2019, May 31 from Factiva database.
25. 获企业家认同支持 陈嘉庚基金回响热烈. (2011, October 30). 南洋商. Retrieved 2019, May 31 from Factiva database.



The information in this article is valid as at April 2020 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
Associations, institutions, etc.--Singapore
Scholarships--Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Education>>Higher education>>Student aids and scholarships
Organisations>>Associations
Organisations