Professor Saw Swee Hock at the official opening of the LSESU Saw Swee Hock Student Centre on the 24th October 2014
It is with great sadness that the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre notes the passing of Professor Saw Swee Hock, the prominent academic and philanthropist whose generosity founded the Centre, and after whom it is named. As a supporter and firm friend of SEAC, Professor Saw took a great interest in the work of SEAC, bringing his insights and wisdom to the ongoing agenda of the Centre, including most recently at SEAC’s 2020 Southeast Asia Week.
Professor Saw received his BA and MA from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1956 and 1960, before coming to LSE to study for his PhD in Statistics, which he completed in 1963. There followed a long and prolific career in academia and public service. Professor Saw’s career included positions at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, the University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore (NUS), from which he emerged as a recognised and respected expert on population and investment management.
Pioneering the study of statistics in many of the region’s most renowned and prestigious universities, Professor Saw demonstrated an impressive and unstinting devotion to his field that continued throughout his life. He held visiting positions at universities including Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge and was a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and President’s Honorary Professor of Statistics at NUS.
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 donated widely to universities in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and England to advance higher education, research, and social mobility among the less privileged students. In the past decade Professor Saw bestowed extraordinary gifts to LSE. As a result of Professor Saw’s donations, The LSE Saw Swee Hock Student Centre opened in 2013 and Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre was founded in 2014. Both are named in recognition of his outstanding generosity. His support of some of the most distinguished scholars from LSE to study at the School is also a significant part of his legacy. These tremendous pillars of support across teaching, research and community will have lasting impact for generations to come.
He 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 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.
Professor Saw was one of LSE’s most eminent alumni, benefactors and Honorary Fellows and Distinguished Alumni Leadership recipient.
Professor Saw’s association with LSE spanned over 60 years, he was highly revered by the LSE alumni community in Singapore and admired by LSE faculty and students alike. It was a great honour for the School to recognise Professor Saw as an Honorary Fellow in 2006 in recognition of his illustrious academic career and his transformative philanthropy. He also received LSE’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award in 2015. Professor Saw’s generosity has impacted many generations of students and faculty and will continue to do so for years to come. On founding the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, Professor Saw noted that:
“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… To bring together the research of my alma mater with the region I am from means a lot on a personal level. There are of course many questions and challenges to be addressed in Southeast Asia, and I cannot think of an institution better placed than LSE to tackle them”.
We will be eternally thankful to call Professor Saw an alumnus of LSE and supporter of the Centre. We will remember his extraordinary modesty, warmth, kindness, judicious insight and, of course, the glint in his eye with his wonderful sense of humour and the laughter that always followed. Professor Saw will be deeply missed, and we are grateful that his legacy lives on at LSE through the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre.
An LSE Condolences page in memory of Professor Saw Swee Hock includes a full obituary and space for the sharing of reflections and memories by the LSE Community.