Feb 17 2021

In memory of Professor Saw Swee Hock (1931-2021)

It is with great sadness that LSE writes in memory of Professor Saw Swee Hock, one of our most eminent alumni, benefactors and Honorary Fellows and Distinguished Alumni Leadership recipient, who died on Tuesday 16 February 2021.

Professor Saw Swee Hock at the official opening of the LSESU Saw Swee Hock Student Centre on the 24th October 2014

Prof Saw’, as he was so fondly known as across the LSE community, received his BA and MA from the University of Malaya in Singapore (the predecessor to the National University of Singapore), 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.

In an article in 2012 for LSE’s supporter magazine, Impact, Professor Saw reflected on his time at the School and sharing this with his wife who was also studying in London at the time. Professor Saw remember this as “one of the most significant events of my life”. Citing the high level of academic rigour and excellence that he encountered at LSE as “preparing him well to pursue a career in academia.”

Professor Saw’s commitment to education continued through his philanthropy, notable towards his alma maters. 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 the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, a multidisciplinary Research Centre founded in 2014, 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.

Prof. Yao Qiwei, from the Department of Statistics at LSE and the Saw Swee Hock Professor of Statistics at National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2020, commented “I remember vividly my conversation with Prof. Saw during my time at the Department of Statistics and Applied Probability at NUS in early 2020. His keen interest and curiosity in statistics and data science was almost infectious. One can easily tell that he cared deeply about the study of statistics at NUS and LSE. We all are grateful for his generous support to LSE. I myself am extremely honoured to be Saw Swee Hock Professor of Statistics in 2020”.

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.  We will be eternally thankful to call Professor Saw an alumnus of LSE. 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. Prof Saw will be deeply missed. Requiescat in pace et surget in gloria.

A private family funeral will take place in Singapore on Thursday 18 February.

Professor Saw Swee Hock is survived by his wife, Cheng Siok Hwa, daughters Seang Mei and Seang Pin, his son, Seang Kuan, and five grandchildren. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with them at this time. When circumstances allow, we look forward to appropriately honouring Professor Saw’s life and contributions to LSE, both on campus and in Singapore.

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5 Responses to In memory of Professor Saw Swee Hock (1931-2021)

  1. It is heart-breaking to learn of the death of Professor Saw Swee Hock who had been a long-standing friend of LSE and whose generosity made the establishment of LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre (SEAC) possible. As Director of SEAC, I had the fortune of visiting Prof Saw in his office in 2018 and again in 2019, and each visit came with warm greetings from Prof Saw and keen interests in the development of LSE and SEAC. He was generous with his time and unreserved support for the School, and always came up with new suggestions and encouragement. I was hoping to meet him in person again when international travel resumed, but it is sad to realise this is not going to materialise now. He sounded as passionate as ever when I spoke to him on the phone last year autumn shortly after the LSE Southeast Asia Week events, and I cannot believe he has passed away. He will be dearly missed and also remembered for long. My thoughts are with his wife, family and colleagues.

  2. Brendan Smith says:

    A great loss for the LSE global community. I always enjoyed meeting with Prof. Saw at his “home-from-home” at the Institute of Southeast Asia Studies at NUS. He was a rare kind of individual – incredibly generous, warm and passionate about life, always having time to talk and advise, and always so humble and open-minded. I am glad to have known him since 2010 and while we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his life and what he gave to so many in Singapore, the UK and around the world. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.

  3. Jürgen Haacke says:

    The passing of Professor Saw Swee Hock is very sad news indeed. A deeply impressive and inspirational individual, Prof. Saw took a significant and passionate interest in LSE’s Southeast Asia Centre that was supported financially by (and named after) him, and it was wonderful to see him always attend in person the Centre’s main annual event during its formative years: the Southeast Asia Forum. Interacting with him as (a former, 2016-2018) director of SEAC, I wish to echo what has been said: he was always generous with his time, keenly interested and supportive, and I also have very fond memories of our wide-ranging discussions, both in London and in Singapore. His support allowed us to do so much that otherwise would not have been possible. We will all miss him a lot. My sincere condolences to his family.

  4. Professor Saw Swee Hock was a generous philanthropist, in particular to Institutes for Higher Learning to further the pursuit of knowledge. His contributions to the LSE Southeast Asia Centre, which was named after him, has made invaluable strides in strengthening research and understanding of Southeast Asia in the UK. The Singapore High Commission in London conveys its deepest condolences, and our thoughts are with the family during their time of bereavement.

  5. Quynh Le Vo says:

    I was privileged to have met and worked with Prof. Saw during my time at LSE SEAC. As others have mentioned, he was generous, kind and warm. These qualities as well as his commitment to and interest in SEAC and ability to brighten the mood in any conversation are what I remember when thinking of him. My condolences to Prof Saw’s family, loved ones and colleagues.

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