by Andrew Chan, Zoe Du, Janet Ang, David Shaw, Chua Hung Meng, Colin Chow & Ong Lian Choo
A year late thanks to COVID-19, the BBA/BAcc Class of 1981 finally celebrated their 40th Anniversary dinner on 9 Sep 2022.
It was a joyfully boisterous event that effectively combined their 40th and 41st Anniversaries, with Professors Chng Chee Kiong (Vice Dean of Undergraduate Studies, representing the Dean), Gan See Khem, Francis Koh and Francis Pavri as special guests.
Almost to the day - two score and one year ago - 13 Sep 1981 marked the end of an era and the start of another. It was the Convocation for the first cohort of BBA and BAcc graduates from the National University of Singapore. These same graduates were also from the inaugural intake of students for the Joint Campus in 1978, concurrently making them the first cohort of the latter and the last cohort of students admitted to the BBA and BAcc programmes of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University.
“The degree scroll we received at our Convocation on 13 Sep 1981 looked like we’d made it ourselves using a home printer. It lacked the NUS logo which wasn’t yet in existence”, said one of the celebrants. “It coincided with what we were told would be a difficult job market, so most of us didn’t give that much thought to its homemade appearance so long as it would help us get a job”.
It was not known then that Singapore's growth trajectory would accelerate for the next 35 years and the BBA/BAcc Class of 1981 was fortuitously graduating in the right place at the right time. And, of course, this class can claim much credit for contributing to this growth!
Amidst the revelry, the attendees – now firmly in the demographic segment represented by working senior citizens, the near- or fully-retired, grandparents and even great-grandparents - were inspired by Prof Gan’s talk on “Finishing Well”. Sharing her personal experiences in leaving academia in her 50s to become a business entrepreneur, Prof Gan’s talk resonated with the Class of ’81, who are equally blessed with the joys of increasing life expectancy even as they deal with the challenges of avoiding late-age boredom.
Reminiscent of their university days, the organizing committee of 8 alumni from the Class of ’81 had appointed themselves in mid-2021 to organize their 40th Anniversary dinner. “It wasn’t democratic”, one of them laughs. “But it was effective and efficient because we’re old friends who know each other’s strengths. It was easy to arrow the most suitable person for a given task. Relying on electronic direct mail marketing and word-of-mouth to reach all members of the Class of ’81 amidst the pandemic proved to be the biggest hurdle.” Gratifyingly, the attendees included three alumni who returned from Hong Kong, Perth and New Zealand, specially for the occasion.
As dates optimistically chosen for 2021 were shifted into 2022, the committee relied heavily on contingency planning, working closely with the NUS Business School Alumni Association (“NUSBSA”). Additional support came from the NUS Society (“NUSS”), Alumni Student Advancement Committee (“ASAC”) and Office of Alumni Relations (“OAR”). Caterers were contacted, a venue booked, door gifts were arranged, donations solicited for the NUSBSA Bursary Fund and - the pièce de résistance which was not to be made known until the dinner itself - commemorative degrees from NUS were individually printed with the NUS logo and recipient’s name to be presented to each attendee.
With Professors Chng, Gan, Koh and Pavri invited to take turns to present the commemorative degrees, the atmosphere quickly became a joyous Second Convocation as each attendee came forward. Those who graduated with honours received two degree scrolls. Applause, cheers, laughter and shouts of “Finally!” echoed as each graduate completed their degree.
One recipient later humorously texted, “Told my daughter about my 43-year degree course.”
Adding to the celebratory mood was the sharing of good news: At final count, we had raised over S$129,000 to fund bursaries for Business School students.
Nominations are now open for the Organizing Committee for our 45th anniversary.
NOTE: Commemorative degrees have been printed for all graduates of BBA/BAcc Class of 1981 who were unable to attend the event.