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The Octant Explains: What’s in a Name?

All PostsFeaturesThe Octant Explains: What’s in a Name?

story | Rhyhan Astha (‘22), Assistant Staff Editor and William Hoo (‘22), Contributing Reporter

photo | Rhyhan Astha

KC Room. TCT Lecture Theatre. These are just some of the abbreviations that appear in average Yale-NUS College conversations. But spelling these acronyms out— Kewalram Chanrai or Tan Chin Tuan— is likely to draw blank stares from students. Just who are these people? And how can someone get a classroom named after them? In this The Octant Explains article, we will show you who the people behind these names, and what benefactors have to do to get spaces named after them.

Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre

The lecture theatre located on the ground level of Elm College commemorates the contributions of Mr. Tan Chin Tuan (1908-2005), a philanthropist who established the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation in 1976. The foundation has contributed $5 million towards two programs in Yale-NUS: the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture & Civilization Programme for undergraduates and the Tan Chin Tuan Professorship in China and Chinese Studies. The professorship supports recipients’ research into Chinese studies. Professor Scott Cook, who is Head of Studies (History) in Yale-NUS, is currently a beneficiary of the Tan Chin Tuan Professorship.

Mr. Tan’s path to wealth was unconventional. He was not born into a well-to-do family and his father passed away while he was in school. His working life began when he stopped his formal education. He worked at the Chinese Commercial Bank, which is now well known as the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC). Mr. Tan’s contributions reflect his firm belief in the importance of education. He has directed most of his efforts to supporting Singaporean schools, with a great emphasis on promoting Chinese Studies.

The Tan Chin Tuan Foundation also commits $250,000 a year for an engineering exchange program at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). His commitment is so large that in NTU, there is another space also named the Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Learning Wing

The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Learning Wing is located outside Saga College’s Classroom 6. Another founding benefactor of Yale-NUS College, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple was built in 1884, making it one of the oldest Singaporean Buddhist temples. The temple played an important role in World War II, when it provided refuge for those who were injured and lost their homes during the war.

The temple’s commitment to community is motivated by its dedication to Kwan Im, or Guan Yin, an important figure in Buddhism who espouses compassion. This commitment is reflected in the temple’s philanthropic work. From its current location in Waterloo Street today, it has donated to organisations such as the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), an NGO dedicated to gender equality based in Singapore, and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), a tertiary arts institution in Singapore.

In Yale-NUS, the temple offers the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professorship and the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Study Award for students. Currently, Professor Bryan Van Norden, Head of Studies (Philosophy), holds this professorship.

Kewalram Chanrai Room

Situated right in the middle of the campus, the Kewalram Chanrai Room honors the Kewalram Chanrai Group’s contribution towards the Yale-NUS community. Founded by two brothers, Jhamatmal and Thakurdas Chanrai, the Group was initially a mere textile shop in Hyderabad but has grown to be a major player in the international business community.

The Group’s contributions allowed for the Kewalram Chanrai Scholarship at Yale-NUS. The scholarship is largely awarded to female recipients, as a part of the Group’s endeavor to encourage female students to assume leadership roles in society.

The Kewalram Chanrai Scholarship has counterparts established in various tertiary educational institutions across Singapore such as the Singapore Management University and the Singapore Institute of Technology, with a similar focus on empowering female students.

How these spaces are named

So how much does it cost to get your name on a room in the College? President Tan Tai Yong said, “The asking price for rooms is not static and it changes as the College grows. The early benefactors mostly gave gifts of $1 million and above and some of them had rooms named after them. ”

So far, the only spaces in the College named after donors have been rooms, lecture theatres and wings. President Tan noted that one day, a Residential College (RC) could be renamed after a donor. He said, “It would be hard to make a decision in consultation with students as the school cannot announce a donation until it is finalised. Students would have to trust us to find donors whose values and actions align with the College.” However, President Tan stressed that a donation this notable would take years to cultivate.

While President Tan couldn’t tell us the exact amount a donor would have to give to get their name on an RC, we can reference the donations that went towards neighbouring structures in UTown. The Stephen Riady Centre was named after a $30 million donation from the Stephen Riady Foundation Group and The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium in the Education Resource Centre  was named following a $15 million donation from the Ngee Ann Kongsi Foundation.

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