New Harvard club gets uni's backing

A group of Harvard alumni who were part of a club whose ties with the Ivy League school were cut last year has set up a new association that is recognised by its alma mater.

Last week, the newly formed Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore (HUAAS) also elected nine members to form its committee at its first formal meeting.

The group's president, Mr Chew Kheng Chuan, 58, hopes to create a club that remains active through talks and networking programmes.

With support from Harvard University and its alumni association, HUAAS was registered in Singapore as a society in December, and is now listed as one of the institution's recognised clubs.

This means that it is part of a network of more than 180 clubs worldwide that have the official Harvard stamp.

HUAAS has 500 members, a mix of Singaporean and foreign graduates, and hopes to eventually hit a membership of 1,000.

There are 1,500 to 1,700 Singapore-based Harvard graduates, of whom more than 860 are from its postgraduate business school. Another 200 and 150 are from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School respectively.

In June last year, executive director of Harvard Alumni Association Philip Lovejoy told Singapore-based graduates that it no longer recognised the Harvard Club of Singapore because of issues it could not resolve with its leadership.

The Straits Times had reported last June that some members were unhappy with how the club, which is still registered as a society, was run by its president, Ms Irene Lee, who had apparently made decisions without consulting committee members.

Members of the new HUAAS said they hope it would be an avenue for networking and intellectual debate.

Mr Sam Lipoff, 33, who has a degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard University, said besides meeting new people, he enjoys having rich discussions about issues.

"It's like having a slice of Harvard in Singapore," said the American co-founder of a mobile app firm, who moved to Singapore in 2014.

Mr Chew, a philanthropy consultant who is the first Singaporean to be admitted to an undergraduate course in Harvard in 1978, has had "an active and longstanding relationship" with his alma mater and felt "a sense of duty" to step up.

He graduated from Harvard with a degree in social studies in 1982, and a year later joined a group of Singapore-based Harvard alumni who interview students here who want to join the university.

"The association's aim is nothing too grand; we just want to keep the intellectual pursuit going in all fields from business and law to social issues," he said.

This article was first published on March 18, 2016.
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