Establishing The First Center For SMU
I thought it would be nice to set up a centre for cross-cultural studies. And so I met with Chin Tiong and I said, I've got this idea. So he said, why don't you write it out? So I did a preamble and everything and shared it with Kai Cheong. And they were very excited, they said, wow, this is great, why don't we do it?
And this was a new initiative, and this was November 1999; we were ready to go, you know.
The centre for cross-cultural studies sounds a little bit pedantic, sounds a little bit academic. And what does the man in the street have to do with a centre of cross-cultural study? So I was talking with Kwon Ping [Ho Kwon Ping], and I said, KP, maybe we need a name for this centre, which is not like this, named after a person. We came up with a few names, and Mr Wee Kim Wee, his was one of the names. And KP, myself, Janice [Janice Bellace] and Chin Tiong, the four of us met and we talked about it. And we finally said, Mr Wee is a good example. Because basically, he came from nothing to something, his education was pretty low, and then he educated himself. Then he joined the media, and he rose from a rookie to the head of state. This was an example of a cross-cultural, inter-cultural person. You know, he looks Chinese and all that and yet he hardly spoke a word of Chinese, he was so comfortable in Malay. So he really embraced the whole idea of diversity. And so we approached him and asked to use his name and he said okay with two conditions. One is, my name shall not be used to make profits, and he said, my name will be used to educate the larger community. Because he said, you're already educating your own students, they're there and they're yours. But he said, people outside the university also need to benefit from the university's expertise, knowledge and all that. So those were the two conditions. So we agreed. And that's how the Wee Kim Wee Centre came to be.