Professor Saw Swee Hock, after whom the Southeast Asia Centre is named, received his BA and MA from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1956 and 1960, and his PhD in Statistics from the London School of Economics (LSE) 1963. He began his academic career at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur (1963-1969).
He subsequently becoming Founding Professor of Statistics at the University of Hong Kong (1969-1971) and Professor of Statistics at the National University of Singapore (NUS) (1975-1991). He is currently a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and a Member of the NUS Board of Trustees.
He has served as a consultant or advisor to government, private corporations and location and international organisations. He has held visiting positions in, among others, Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge and LSE. Part of his research work is devoted to the Southeast Asian region, with books on The Population of Malaysia (2nd Edition), The Population of Singapore (3rd Edition), Malaysia: Recent Trends and Challenges (Co-Editor), Managing Economic Crisis in Southeast Asia (Editor), and ASEAN-China Economic Relations (Editor). His publications centring on statistics, demography and economics include some 49 authored/edited books, 31 book chapters and over 110 articles.
He is also well-known for his philanthropic endeavours, particularly in the area of tertiary education. He has donated widely to universities in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and England to advance higher education, research, and social mobility among the less privileged students. He has donated regularly to LSE to support scholarships through the Singapore LSE Trust, the LSE Asia Forums in Singapore and Beijing, the Library, the New Building, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, and the new Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre. His other alma mater, the NUS, has received the major share of his gifts, the largest was towards the establishment of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
He has received numerous accolades for this philanthropic and academic achievements. He was named Honorary Professor of Statistics at the University of Hong Kong, Honorary Professor at Xiamen University, and President's Honorary Professor of Statistics at NUS. He was made an Honorary Fellow at LSE and an Honorary University Fellow of the University of Hong Kong. He was conferred the Outstanding Service Award by NUS, the Singapore President's Award for Philanthropy, and the Public Service Medal (PBM) by the Singapore Government in the 2013 National Day Awards. He was named as one of the '48 Heroes of Philanthropy' in the Asia-Pacific Region by Forbes Asia magazine in 2014. In 2015, he was conferred the Honorary Doctor of Letters by NUS and the Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award by LSE.
Professor Saw says, "I am delighted to support the establishment of this Centre to enable LSE to consolidate and strengthen its education and research on the Southeast Asia region among students, researchers and faculty members. A deeper understanding of the 10 countries with diverse political and economic systems, bonded together by ASEAN, will engender lasting benefits to the School's academic community and graduates viewed in terms of the increasingly inter-dependent world economy and a further rise of Asia in the years ahead."