Early days at SMU
By the very nature of an institution that started out living in one roomóI guess thatís the nature of thisópeople got to know one another very, very closely. And then of course we got to two rooms and three rooms and we grew a little bit bigger. There was a great sense of interaction between the chairman and the president and the members of the board who were coming on. Ron Frank [Ronald Frank] was the other overseas academic member of the board. And Janice at that point was the first president. So, Janice, Ron, myself, Chin Tiong [Tan Chin Tiong], with KP [Ho Kwon Ping] coming inóheís never short on enthusiasm and ideas and questionsóthey would often send us off into areas we had never really anticipated going into. There was just so much to do. I guess today everyone would say thereís so much to do as well, but it had a different drumbeat to it back then. There was nothing that was not possible. We were the brand new kid on the block, being premium funded at three to four times what the others were doing. In a way, we knew that that was going to come to an end, but thatís a long way away. At the moment itís still coming in; weíre discussing new buildings, new courses. You give your right arm if you are really into and love universities; youíd give your right arm to be in the middle of something like that. And because Singapore is so serious about a quality development of its higher education system, you didnít feel as though you were spinning wheels or wasting time. Iíve been on advisory bodies for start-up universitiesówhich is a good and true endeavour, itís a community service that you do, itís necessary to engage in that from time to timeóbut nothing quite like SMU, which had the particular attention of the Government. In many other areas where Iíve seen new institutions come together, the government has put them together; youíve got a new body emerging because theyíre trying to solve a problem. Itís arisen out of a divorce or theyíre trying to prevent a divorce of institutions. Whereas SMU was greenfield, totally fresh, had funding at an appropriate level, had a group of people whose capacity was beyond question. The one danger, I guess is we simply got ahead of ourselves, weíd raced from point A to point E, without realising we should have covered B and C along the way. Then you look back and, oh, we better take care of that. It was a very good time.