Eminent American scientist, engineer and entrepreneur appointed NTU President

0n 13 July, NTU announced that Professor Subra Suresh will succeed NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson as the fourth President of the university. Prof Suresh will begin his presidency on 1 January 2018, when Prof Andersson retires from the role, which he has held since 2011.

Prof Suresh, who was appointed in 2010 by then-US President Barack Obama to lead the US National Science Foundation (NSF), joins NTU from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where he was President for the last four years. CMU has been credited for its contribution to the transformation of the city of Pittsburgh from primarily a steel producer into a diverse economy through advances in technology, services and medicine.

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Former US President Barack Obama in conversation with Prof Subra Suresh at the Oval Office in the White House during his term as Director of the US National Science Foundation

As Director of the NSF, which he led from 2010 to 2013, he oversaw an annual budget of US$7 billion that supports fundamental research and innovation in science and engineering in more than 2,000 institutions across the US and in a number of global research facilities from the Arctic to Antarctic.

Prof Suresh holds the distinction of being the only university president elected to all three US national academies – of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine – and is one of the few elected foreign members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In making the announcement, Chairman of the NTU Board of Trustees Mr Koh Boon Hwee said, “A world-class university demands a leader with vision, global stature, a thorough understanding of the environment in which it operates, and the larger international backdrop that the university and Singapore fit into. Subra more than matches all these criteria.”

Since his appointment, Prof Suresh has wasted no time to prepare for his new role. He said in a memo to staff, “To hit the ground running, I have visited the beautiful NTU campus and have had a number of conversations with the trustees, deans, vice-presidents and senior administrative leaders. I also look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the weeks and months ahead.

“I am grateful to President Professor Bertil Andersson for his strong support friendship and assistance during this transition period.”

Prof Suresh will work closely with a leadership team of three Vice-Presidents: NTU College of Science Dean Professor Ling San will take over from Provost Professor Freddy Boey, who is stepping down in October, as Provost and Vice-President for Academics; Professor Lam Khin Yong will continue in his role as Vice-President for Research; while Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Administrative Officer Ms Tan Aik Na will serve as Vice-President for Administration and CFO. All new appointments are effective 1 January 2018.

Announcing Prof Suresh’s appointment, Mr Koh also took the opportunity to thank Prof Andersson for his stellar leadership. He noted that “NTU has made phenomenal progress as a globally recognised university” under Prof Andersson’s leadership.

He added in a memo to staff, “I wish to put on record my personal thanks to him for leading NTU to such great distinction and achievement in the last six years as NTU President.”

Prof Andersson, who joined NTU in 2007 as provost, said, “I warmly welcome Prof Suresh and hope that he will enjoy his time here as NTU President as much as I have.

“It has been a great honour and I have many special memories of my 10 years in this remarkable place. I know the future leadership of NTU is in safe hands and I look forward to working with Prof Suresh and the NTU Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition.

“Wherever I am in the world in the future, I will continue to be a proud ambassador of NTU and Singapore.”