Time flies. In the twinkle of an eye, ten years have gone by. I still remember meeting the former President of NUS, Prof Shih Choon Fong and Prof Wang Gungwu, at a reception at the French Embassy. They pulled me aside and shared with me their vision to found the Asia Research Institute. I shared their vision and expressed my support. Prof Shih asked whether I could chair the board of the new Institute. I agreed. Subsequently, the university bureaucracy intervened and decided that it would prefer one of the university administrators to chair the Board. I was asked, instead, to chair the International Advisory Board.
On the happy occasion of ARIís tenth anniversary, I would like to look briefly at ARIís past, present and future.
First, I would like to pay a tribute to Prof Shih Choon Fong and Prof Wang Gungwu for their vision in founding ARI. Although an engineer by training and a man of science, Prof Shih believed in the value of research in the humanities and social sciences. He was prepared to put his money where his mouth was. Prof Wang Gungwu, the paradigm of a modern day renaissance man, helped to recruit Professor Anthony (Tony) Reid, a world class scholar, to take the job. Many years ago, Professor Reid had worked under Professor Wang, at the University of Malaya.
Second, under the leadership of Prof Tony Reid and Prof Lily Kong, ARI has succeeded in its mission. It has made important contributions to the understanding of Asian migration, Asian urbanism, the Asian family, Asian culture, religion and globalisation, and science, technology and society. It has nurtured a new generation of young scholars. It has published important books, journals and learned articles, convened conferences, seminars, workshops, roundtables and reached out to external stakeholders. To sum up, ARI has put itself on the map and earned the respect of scholars throughout the world in ten short years.
Third, I am very pleased that ARIís new director is a world class historian, Prof Prasenjit Duara. I am confident that under his leadership, ARI will ascend to a higher peak.