Having already amassed degrees in fields from engineering to business to law by the age of 48, it seemed like a good time for Dr Lee Tong Nge, 66, to call it a day on his academic pursuits.
But he went one step further and attained his PhD in education at 65.
He said: "I've always believed in lifelong learning as it improves your knowledge, your skill set and most importantly, your ability to see things in different perspectives."
Dr Lee's thirst for self-improvement is something that has benefited an institution that is close to his heart - Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). He was one of the more than 50 pioneer staff that NYP paid tribute to last Thursday during its pioneer celebration event.
It celebrated staff members who have contributed greatly to the school's development, and established a legacy of innovation and enterprise for NYP.
Dr Lee, who is currently the chief operating officer at the Singapore Productivity Centre, joined NYP in 1995 after two decades of working in the private sector.
He left his job as a general manager in a technology company and joined NYP so that he could realise his childhood dream of being a teacher.
He said: "From young, I've always wanted to be a teacher and educate the next generation. My friends and I would even role play as teachers during our school holidays."
He started out as a lecturer in NYP's School of Business Management, and rose up the ranks to eventually become the school's director in 2012.
Dr Lee said NYP's infancy at the time was what attracted him to it.
He said: "Some people say it is better to go to a more established institution. But there are fewer opportunities for growth there."
During his time at NYP, Dr Lee pioneered several projects, from the launching of new courses and internship programmes, to the adaptation of NYP's trademarked Teaching Factory pedagogy to the Teaching Enterprise concept, a teaching method that centres on students getting real-world experience in school through practise-based training.
Dr Lee said he was able to implement the many projects over the years because of the constant support he received from his colleagues.
"The staff and management all worked together to improve the school. We not only conceptualised ideas but also made them happen," he said.
"We all breathed and lived the same culture, and I was given a lot of trust and empowerment by the principal and director at the time."
Ms Sharon Lhu, a manager at NYP's School of Business Management who has worked with Dr Lee for more than 15 years, said she looks up to him as a source of inspiration in the workplace.
She said: "I admire his continuous quest for knowledge, his optimistic outlook on life and his deep passion for his work."
But of all his endeavours, the thing that gives Dr Lee the most fulfilment is the students who pass through NYP's gates yearly.
"Every year, my proudest moment would be seeing the students go on stage to receive their diplomas," said Dr Lee, who was seconded to the Singapore Productivity Centre in January.
"This is especially so when students, who were at first struggling, graduate as one of the top students."
This article was first published on November 18, 2014.
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