26th June 2010
30th Anniversary Dinner @ The Arts House
The Beginning of The French Alumni

Could it be that long? A whole generation ago! Alan, Wing Keong, Mok and myself had just retumed to Singapore. It was the summer of '78. We were the first batch to have gone for undergraduate studies in France and capped the relatively long stint of six years with our respective engineering degrees, Diplome d'lngénieur.

Like most of the alumni members, we certainly had "grown up" in France, spent the best part of our youth in acquiring the knowledge of things French and savouring things French. It was certainly not for the snob effect but the reality of getting on with our studies and the culmination of an insouciant student life in Paris.

And so what prompted the founding of our Alumni? In part, there was the social aspect. We had wanted to keep up with the French language and culture, and share it with those who have had similar experiences. But there was a more prosaic reason. We had to attend to the issue of recognition and equivalence of our Diplome d'lngénieur. We were then the pioneers to go through the system of Classe préparatoire and the Ecole d'lngénieur.

I then remember Michel Deverge, then Cultural, Scientific and Technical Counsellor at the French Embassy in Singapore inviting the four of us for lunch one Saturday afternoon in Sep 1978. We talked of forming an Alumni and what it should stand for. A few more informal exchanges of views led us to a gathering at the Alliance Française (then at Draycott Park), where the first pro-tem committee, with myself as President was elected. We had to work towards a final registration with the Registrar of Societies, draft the constitution and at the same time generate sufficient interest amongst potential members.

With the French Embassy and the Alliance Française facilitating our work, we did get off the ground with a variety of Alumni activities; some will remember the dinner at Chez Bidou (it doesn't exist anymore, but the chef hails from Villefranche-sur-mer), an outdoor camp-fire, wine and cheese sessions, a visit to a children's home, slide-show presentations of France etc.

In retrospect, I would like to record my appreciation to those who have contributed significantly in the early years, to Monsieur Deverge, and subsequently, Monsieur Jacques de Mones from the French Embassy, to Alan Chan who ably assisted me as Vice-President, Toon Jin Kin (now Jin Kin Floodgate living in London) who was the Hon Secretary, and Patricia Loh (now Patricia Linares living in Paris) who served as Hon Treasurer.

And with the passing of another generation, I am truly proud that successive committees of the French Alumni have kept true to the ideals of the Alumni, and this year's committee -20th Anniversary under Eric's leadership has even a loftier ideal, viz to position the French Alumni as a truly responsible corporate citizen of our country. Vive la French Alumni! ! !

Article contributed by Mr Goh Khean Hooi, Founding President of the French Alumni (1980-82), for the French Alumni’s 20th anniversary souvenir magazine
Khean Hooi is currently Manager Western Japan for Singapore Airlines, based in Osaka.

The late Dr. Eric Teo

The First 10 Years

The first ten years were consolidation years for the French Alumni. That was its first and foremost task and objective. In a series of recollection messages published in the 10th anniversary commemorative album, our first President Goh Khean Hooi (1980/81 &1981/82) spoke of his pioneering years in founding the French Alumni, based on “the die-hard inspiration or excitement of what the Alumni can be.....its relevance and its growth”. Our second president Prof Lim Kah Bin (1982/83 & 1983/84) stressed the crucial task of gathering all the students who had studied in France together and forging strong bonds of comradeship amongst them. In the task of forging good relations with the French community in Singapore, third President Lim Koon Sang (1984/85 & 1985/86), like his predecessor, saw to it that the Alumni remained an independent Francophone organisation in Singapore. Fourth President Ng Seh Lok (1986/87 & 1987/88) stressed the importance of adapting the Alumni to the changing profile and needs of its members. Finally, when Dr Eric Teo (1988/89, 1989/90 & 1990/91) came to the presidency and after seeing the fruits of the internal consolidation of the Alumni during the past four presidencies, he embarked on the task of developing the French Alumni’s “external wing”, not only with the French community, but also within the Singaporean society at large.

Article contributed by Dr Eric Teo, President of the French Alumni
(1988-91), for the French  Alumni's 20th anniversary souvenir magazine

Past Presidents of the French Alumni

Standing (left to right): Dr Chia Boon Tat, Mr Chan Wing Keong, Dr Lim Kah Bin, Mr Kelvin Chung Kheng Tong
Sitting (left to right): Ms Angeline Ng Feng Sheng, Dr Eric Teo Chu Cheow, Mr Lim Koon Sang

Major milestones in the French Alumni’s history came in the later years after the first three Presidents had nurtured the association, consolidated its internal cohesion and created a vibrant group identity. In 1987, the first French Alumni directory was published. In January 1988, the then French Ambassador Fredéric Grasset and Madame hosted a garden dinner party for all French Alumni members in the Résidence de France; almost 90% of our members then attended this special evening! On 17 Jun 1989, the Alumni, together with the Association Française de Singapore, organised a gala dinner to commemorate the bicentenary of the French Revolution or “La Bastille”, which brought together 520 people at the Pan-Pacific Hotel. It was undoubtedly billed as one of Singapore’s most glamorous events of 1989! In the same year, the “Council of Former Presidents” was established to guide and advise successive EXCOs of the French Alumni, and has since remained one of the pillars of this association. And then in 1990, as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations, a souvenir album, tracing the first ten years of the Alumni, was published in February and the “Ballet de Lyon” performed in Singapore under the patronage of the French Alumni in March.

1990 was also a monumental year for French Alumni members, whose large majority were former PSC scholars in France. Firstly, we obtained the accreditation of the Professional Engineering Board (PEB) of Singapore for all French engineering degrees, which are gazetted annually by the French Ministry of Education. Secondly, all returned French graduates join the Singapore civil service with two automatic increments, to compensate for the “loss” of two years in their career development, in view of the longer period of studies in France’s grande école system. I pay tribute to the collective efforts of our alumni members, and especially for the PEB accreditation achievement, to former President Ng Seh Lok, who has sadly passed away in 1996 from cancer.