78-year-old Gopinath Pillai, who is currently the Ambassador-at-Large of Singapore and special envoy to Andhra Pradesh recieved the award yesterday. He recalled his earlier days and the challenges that he had to face of shaping Singapore when the island state was still in the last stage of shedding colonial rule.
"The world was undergoing change and there was a greater political consciousness," he said. "Things were more chaotic back then. It taught me how to deal with changing situations, for which there was no text book," Pillai was quoted as saying by the Straits Times newspaper.
Pillai had nurtured a deep interest in international relations and community welfare from his university days. A former journalist, he has worked in a number of fields including banking and now is chairman of Information Technology company Savant Infocomm and a director of Gateway Distriparks Ltd in India.
Pillai has contributed significantly to Singapore through his distinguished service as a diplomat for more than 25 years. Additionally, his past and current involvement in a number of agencies, ranging from NTUC FairPrice Co-operative Limited and Ang Mo Kio-Thye Hua Kwan Hospital to Hindu Advisory Board, has had substantial impact on the social fabric of Singapore.
Also honoured yesterday includes Dr Seek Ngee Huat, 65, who in his many roles is the founder of the NUS Institute of Real Estate Studies and was president of the real estate investment arm of the Government Investment Corp, a state-owned sovereign wealth fund.
Commending the two, NUS president Tan Chorh Chuan said: "Dr Seek and Mr Pillai worked tirelessly, over decades, to expand the space and opportunities for future generations. "In their commitment to excellence and service to the community, they are true exemplars of the NUS tradition and spirit."