A total of 10,867 graduates from the Class of 2018 will receive their degrees over 23 ceremonies during NUS Commencement 2018 from 12 to 19 July — 6,785 receiving Bachelor’s degrees and 4,082 receiving graduate degrees.
Among them are pioneer graduates from several programmes including Bachelor of Computing (Information Security); Master of Dental Surgery (Paediatric Dentistry); Master of Science (Applied Geographic Information Systems); Master of Science (Chemistry for Energy and Environment); and Master of Technology (IT Leadership), as well as the NUS Law students who received their hard-earned scrolls from Singapore President and NUS Chancellor Madam Halimah Yacob during the Main Ceremony on 12 July at the University Cultural Centre.
Presiding over NUS Commencement for the first time as NUS Chancellor, Mdm Halimah also conferred on The Honourable Justice Chao Hick Tin, Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore, an Honorary Doctor of Laws, the University’s highest accolade.
“At this important milestone, we celebrate not only the remarkable accomplishments of our exceptional men and women; more importantly, with this highly symbolic ceremony, we are entrusting our graduates to lead our community and nation to even greater heights,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye. He urged NUS’ newest graduates to continually strive to put forth their best effort in whatever they do and to always have a higher goal of seeking to serve others, following in the footsteps of Justice Chao, whom he called “an exceptional individual who embodies these qualities of personal excellence and absolute integrity, and who has accomplished a remarkable record of contributing in manifold ways, over a long career, to public and community service”. Justice Chao is known not only for his sharp legal mind but for his qualities of graciousness and modesty as well, added Prof Tan.
Continuing his speech at the Ceremony, Prof Tan pointed to the ever-changing environment, highlighting that greater global competition and new technologies such as fintech, artificial intelligence and data analytics are expected to have a great impact on the economy and on important sectors such as legal services. His advice to graduates was to continuously develop their legal expertise and engage in regular cycles of acquiring and assimilating new knowledge and skills. “Resolve and resilience will be critical in overcoming challenges and in adapting to change,” he emphasised.
In line with such changes, Prof Tan added that NUS is making lifelong learning a core tenet of the University’s programmes and approach, working to reimagine undergraduate and postgraduate education for students, alumni and the public.
NUS Law Dean Professor Simon Chesterman read the citation for Justice Chao, paying tribute to the former judge’s dedication to public service. Justice Chao had spent his entire professional life — spanning some fifty years — in the pursuit of justice and helped establish the country as a leading legal hub in Asia.
Soon after graduating with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Law from University College, London, Justice Chao joined the Attorney-General’s Chambers, rising to the rank of Senior Counsel in 1979. He held a number of illustrious positions throughout his career — Judicial Commissioner in 1987, High Court Judge in 1990, followed by Judge of Appeal in 1999. Justice Chao was appointed Attorney-General for two years in 2006 before returning to the Supreme Court as Vice-President of the Court of Appeal, a position he held until his retirement in 2017. He was re-appointed as a Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore in January 2018.
Justice Chao’s legal expertise and spirit of public service was called upon in landmark agreements and treaties that secured and promoted Singapore’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and commercial interests. He contributed to the Pedra Branca dispute case, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang) at the National Day Awards of 2008; and assisted in the Water Agreements with Malaysia as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Sharing that Justice Chao epitomised the finest characteristics of a judge and a lawyer, Prof Chesterman said that in the course of a magnificent career, “Justice Chao has inspired the admiration and respect of all whom he has encountered — qualities that I will briefly describe as being a judge’s judge, and a lawyer’s lawyer.” He elaborated with an observation from Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who had said that many members of the bench would often resolve a judicial dilemma by asking themselves “What would Hick Tin do?”.
Justice Chao said that he was greatly humbled by the honour recognising his strong passion for law which he has held since his high school years. In addressing the graduates, he further espoused the transformative nature of globalisation and digitalisation touched on earlier by Prof Tan, emphasising that change is not something to be feared, since “we cannot retreat to the days of the Flintstones”, but embraced for the wealth of opportunities it brings.
Sharing his views on the future legal profession and landscape, Justice Chao said, “Do not expect that it will be plain sailing all the time. There will no doubt be moments of frustration or even despair. But with commitment and passion, you will be able to overcome these moments and find fulfilment in your practice of the law. Above all, always remember — never compromise on integrity: not for any cause nor at any price.”
At the lunch held in honour of Honorary Graduand Justice Chao, Prof Tan said that Justice Chao’s heart for public service has been evident since he was a bright promising young lawyer. Today, he holds the title of one of Singapore’s longest serving public servants. “Justice Chao discharged his duties with honesty and humility and treated one and all with respect and civility,” shared Prof Tan.
Delivering the Valedictorian speech during the Main Ceremony was NUS Law graduand Chong Shi Cheng who credited NUS for positively shaping every student, saying, “No matter what path we have taken, we leave here as better individuals than when we first came.” He also reminded his fellow graduands not to get too caught up in inevitable successes and failures of life as they moved from school to practice, and to always appreciate and treasure those around them who made it all possible.
The close of NUS Commencement 2018 will be marked by Commencement Dinner on 20 July.
Read speech by NUS President.
Read citation for Justice Chao Hick Tin by Dean, Faculty of Law.
Read speech by Justice Chao Hick Tin.
See press release.
Click here for more on Commencement 2018, including a live webcast of each ceremony.