2017 – 2023
2017 – 2023
Eighth President of Singapore
Mdm Halimah Yacob started her career with the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 1978. Throughout her 33 years of service, she served in various posts, including as NTUC Deputy Secretary General, Director of the Legal Services Dept, Director of the Women’s Development Secretariat, Director of the Singapore Institute of Labour Studies (now renamed as the Ong Teng Cheong Institute of Labour Studies) and Executive Secretary of the United Workers of Electrical and Electronic Industries.
Mdm Halimah also represented Singapore on the Governing Body of the Geneva-based International Labour Organisation for 12 years and was the first Singaporean to do so. She contributed in various capacities to formulate labour standards and strengthen their enforcement for workers worldwide. She also participated in various national level committees to review Singapore’s economy and job creation.
Mdm Halimah entered politics in 2001 upon her election as a Member of Parliament (MP) of the Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC). Her last and fourth term as an MP before she became President of the Republic of Singapore was in the newly formed Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC. During her career as an MP, she was appointed Minister of State for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and was later appointed as the ninth Speaker of Parliament, the first woman to hold that office.
Apart from her official appointments, Mdm Halimah also served as patron to a number of charitable and welfare organisations representing people with disabilities, disadvantaged families, women, and those with mental health issues.
Mdm Halimah stepped down as Speaker of the Singapore Parliament in August 2017 to contest in the Presidential Election and was sworn in as the 8th President of the Republic of Singapore on 14 September 2017, the first female President in Singapore’s history.
For her passion in championing women’s causes, Mdm Halimah was awarded the Woman of the Year by Her World Magazine in 2003 and the Aware Heroine Award in 2011. She was also cited on the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014. Berita Harian, a Malay language newspaper, awarded her the Achiever of the Year in 2001.
Mdm Halimah received the King Abdulaziz Medal, the highest civilian honour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in 2019. She was conferred the Order of Dostyk (Friendship) of the First Degree by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2023.
Mdm Halimah holds a Master of Laws degree from the National University of Singapore. In 2016, the university conferred on her an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 2023, Mdm Halimah was conferred the title of Honorary Professor by Nazarbayev University.
2011 - 2017
2011 – 2017
Seventh President of Singapore
Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam was born in Singapore on 7 February 1940. He received his early education in St Patrick's School and St Joseph's Institution. Dr Tan graduated from the University of Singapore with a First Class Honours Degree in Physics in 1962, and went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he obtained a Master of Science degree. He later obtained a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Adelaide.
Dr Tan started his career as a lecturer with the Physics Department of the University of Singapore in 1964, after obtaining his Master of Science degree. He joined the University again as a lecturer with the Department of Mathematics after obtaining his doctorate in 1967. In 1969, he left the University to begin a career in banking with the Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), where he rose to become General Manager. He left OCBC in 1979 to enter politics.
Dr Tan was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1979 and was appointed Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Education. From October 1983 to January 1985, Dr Tan served as the Minister for Finance and concurrently as the Minister for Trade and Industry. From January 1985 to December 1991, he served as the Minister for Education.
In December 1991, Dr Tan stepped down from the Cabinet to return to the private sector as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OCBC. Dr Tan rejoined the Cabinet in August 1995 and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. In August 2003, Dr Tan was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence.
Dr Tan championed the development of higher education in Singapore as Minister for Education, Minister-in-charge for National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological Institute (1981-1983) and Deputy Prime Minister overseeing higher education (1995-2005). Under Dr Tan’s guidance, university education in Singapore became more globalised and was made accessible to more Singaporeans regardless of their family or financial background.
Dr Tan was also part of the trade union movement. He was appointed Chairman of NTUC Investment and Cooperative Committee in 1979 and served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of NTUC Income from 1980 to 1991. In 1988 Dr Tan was awarded the NTUC Medal of Honour by the National Trade Union Congress.
Dr Tan retired from the Cabinet in September 2005 and was appointed Deputy Chairman and Executive Director of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Private Limited (GIC), Chairman of the National Research Foundation and Deputy Chairman of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council, and Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH).
In July 2011, Dr Tan stepped down from his positions at the GIC and SPH to contest in the Presidential Election. He was elected on 27 August 2011, and was sworn in as the seventh President of the Republic of Singapore on 1 September 2011.
Dr Tan has been conferred numerous honours for his work. He was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal by the New York Foreign Policy Association for his outstanding leadership and service in both the public and private sectors. For his contributions towards Singapore’s development into a global hub of scientific research and education in his earlier roles as Education Minister and subsequently as Chairman of the National Research Foundation, Dr Tan was inducted into the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in July 2012. Dr Tan was also awarded the Great Gold Medal by Comenius University (Slovakia) and the King Charles II Medal by the Royal Society of United Kingdom. He has honorary doctorates from the Loughborough University, Murdoch University, The University of Sheffield and The University of Adelaide.
Dr Tan married Madam Mary Chee Bee Kiang in 1964. They have four children (three sons and one daughter) and six grandchildren.
1999 - 2011
1999 – 2011
Sixth President of Singapore
Mr S R Nathan was born in Singapore on 3 July 1924.
Mr Nathan received his early education in several schools – Anglo-Chinese Primary and Middle School, Rangoon Road Afternoon School and Victoria School. He started working before completing his studies. After the war, whilst working, he completed his secondary education through self-study and entered the University of Malaya (then in Singapore) where he graduated in 1954 with a Diploma in Social Studies (Distinction).
Mr Nathan began his career in the Singapore Civil Service as a medical social worker in 1955. He was appointed Seamen’s Welfare Officer the following year. In 1962, he was seconded to the Labour Research Unit of the Labour Movement, first as Assistant Director and later as Director, until January 1966. He continued as a Member of its Board of Trustees until April 1988.
In February 1966, Mr Nathan was transferred to the Foreign Ministry. He served as Assistant Secretary and rose to be Deputy Secretary before being appointed Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs in January 1971. In August of the same year, Mr Nathan moved to the Ministry of Defence where he was a Director with the rank of Permanent Secretary.
In February 1979, Mr Nathan returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became its First Permanent Secretary until February 1982, when he left to become the Executive Chairman of the Straits Times Press (1975) Ltd. At various times from 1982 to 1988, Mr Nathan also held directorship of several other companies including the Singapore Mint Pte Ltd, The Straits Times Press (London) Ltd, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Marshall Cavendish Ltd. He was Chairman of Mitsubishi Singapore Heavy Industries – a ship-repairing and engineering joint-venture with the Mitsubishi Group of Japan – from 1973 to 1986.
From 1983 to April 1988, Mr Nathan was Chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board. He was a founding member of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), and was its Term Trustee until August 1999.
In April 1988, Mr Nathan was appointed Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia and in July 1990, he became Ambassador to the United States of America where he served until June 1996.
On his return from the US, Mr Nathan was made Ambassador-at-Large and was concurrently Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at the Nanyang Technological University. He held a directorship in the Singapore International Media Pte Ltd between September 1996 and August 1999.
Mr Nathan resigned as Ambassador-at-Large and Director of IDSS on 17 August 1999 and was elected President of the Republic of Singapore on 18 August 1999. He began his six-year term from 1 September 1999. On 17 August 2005, Mr Nathan was re-elected and he was sworn-in for his second term of office on 1 September 2005.
Mr Nathan was conferred the Public Service Star in 1964, the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 1967, and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974.
Mr Nathan, a Hindu, was married to Urmila (Umi) Nandey and had a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.
Mr Nathan passed away on 22 August 2016.
1993 - 1999
1993 – 1999
Fifth President of Singapore
Mr Ong Teng Cheong became the fifth President of the Republic of Singapore on 1 September 1993.
Born on 22 January 1936 in Singapore, Mr Ong entered school late because of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. He was an outstanding student during his school career. After completing his secondary education, he enrolled at the University of Adelaide, where he was awarded the Bachelor of Architecture in 1961. He acquired his post-graduate degree of Master of Civic Design (Town Planning) from University of Liverpool, United Kingdom in 1967.
Mr Ong had a varied career before becoming President. He joined the Planning Department, Ministry of National Development, in 1967 as an architect-planner. He was seconded to the UNDP (Special Fund) Assistance in Urban Renewal and Development Project to lead a local team in the comprehensive transportation and land-use planning of Singapore's central area. In 1971, he left the civil service and set up his own practice.
In 1972, Mr Ong was elected to Parliament and served as a Member of Parliament for 21 years. He was appointed Senior Minister of State for Communications in 1975. Subsequently, he held the Communications, Culture and Labour portfolios. In 1983, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio when he joined the labour movement as its elected Secretary-General.
Mr Ong was appointed Second Deputy Prime Minister in 1985 and held this post until 1990. Between November 1990 and August 1993, he was Deputy Prime Minister. He resigned from the Cabinet, the People's Action Party and as Secretary-General of the NTUC in August 1993 to stand for the presidential election.
Mr Ong passed away on 8 February 2002.
1985 - 1993
1985 – 1993
Fourth President of Singapore
Dr Wee Kim Wee was appointed the President of the Republic of Singapore on 30 August 1985.
Born in Singapore on 4 November 1915, he received his early education at Pearl's Hill School. In January 1930, at the age of 15, he left Raffles Institution after only two years to join the Straits Times as a clerk in the circulation department, later moving to advertising and reporting. Eight months before the outbreak of the Pacific War (1941), he resigned from the Straits Times and joined the United Press Association, an American news agency, which set up its office in Singapore for the first time.
Except for three and a half years during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and ten and a half years as High Commissioner to Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and Ambassador to Japan and the Republic of Korea in Tokyo, Dr Wee has worked in the news media.
During the attack on Malaya and Singapore, he served in the ARP (air raid precautions). During the occupation of Singapore, he worked as a clerk in Japanese military establishments. When the war ended, he was supervisor and cashier of a large canteen catering to Asian seamen of Japanese merchant ships.
When Singapore was liberated in 1945, Dr Wee rejoined the United Press Association. In 1959 he joined the Straits Times as Deputy Editor (Singapore), heading the editorial department in Singapore. The other editorial executives had moved to Kuala Lumpur.
While at The Straits Times, Dr Wee covered the civil war in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) at the time when Malaysia sent a special force to join the United Nations Command's peace-keeping force. He also covered the official visits of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to Indonesia and to several countries in Eastern Europe.
In 1966, Dr Wee was the first Singaporean journalist to enter Jakarta during Confrontation and interview Lieutenant-General Suharto and Foreign Minister Mr Adam Malik when President Sukarno was still confined to the palace in Bogor. Through reports of his exclusive interviews, Singaporeans and Malaysians learned for the first time that Indonesia was keen to end Confrontation.
In 1973, two years before he was due to retire from The Straits Times, the Singapore Government offered him the post of High Commissioner to Malaysia. It was to have been a three-year term, but Dr Wee stayed at the post for seven years, the last two years as dean of the diplomatic corps in Kuala Lumpur. Dr Wee also served as a member of the Singapore delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1977.
Dr Wee was appointed Ambassador to Japan in September 1980 and concurrently Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in February 1981. He returned to Singapore in end April 1984 and assumed the chairmanship of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
In his younger days, Dr Wee was an active sportsman. He played badminton, table tennis, basketball and soccer. In 1937, he was junior singles badminton champion of Singapore. He spent many years serving various badminton bodies of Singapore and Malaya (later Malaysia), and had served as president of the Singapore Badminton Association and vice-president of the Badminton Association of Malaya. He had also been active in social services serving in various clubs and associations. For several years, he was chairman of SATA (Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association).
Dr Wee served on six statutory boards: Rent Control Board; Film Appeal Committee; Land Acquisition Board; Board of Visiting Justices; National Theatre Trust; and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. In 1966, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Dr Wee was awarded the Public Service Star for his public work in 1963, and in 1979, the Meritorious Service Medal for his diplomatic services.
Dr Wee got married in 1936 to Madam Koh Sok Hiong and had seven children – one son and six daughters. He passed away on 2 May 2005.
1981 - 1985
1981 – 1985
Third President of Singapore
Mr C V Devan Nair was appointed President of the Republic of Singapore on 23 October 1981. Prior to this, he led the Singapore trade union movement, transforming the trade unions into a well-knit and forward-looking force dedicated to the welfare of labour under the principle of joint labour, management and government partnership. He also initiated the establishment of the NTUC insurance co-operative INCOME, the taxi co-operative COMFORT and the WELCOME chain of co-operative supermarkets.
Born in Malacca on 5 August 1923, Mr Nair came with his family to Singapore at the age of 10. He received his education first at Rangoon Road Primary School and then at Victoria School, where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1940.
At the end of World War II, Mr Nair began to teach. As a Normal Trained teacher, he taught at St Joseph's Institution and later, at St Andrew's School. Teaching led to his involvement in trade unionism, and he became General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers' Union in 1949. In 1951 he was detained by the British authorities as part of a general drive against anti-colonial activities and remained under detention until April 1953. On his release, he again became active in the trade union movement, as Secretary of the Singapore Factory and Shopworkers' Union.
In 1954, Mr Nair was one of the convenors of the People's Action Party and became a member of the Central Executive Committee. In 1956, he was again detained by the British and remained in custody until 1959 when the PAP came to power and appointed him Political Secretary to the Minister for Education. Resigning that appointment a year later, he returned to teaching. In the same year, he was appointed Chairman of the Prisons Inquiry Commission and launched the Adult Education Board, becoming its first Chairman, serving from 1960 to 1964.
In 1961, Mr Nair helped to found the Singapore National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and was elected the first Secretary-General of the NTUC. In 1964, when Singapore was in Malaysia, he stood for election to the Malaysian Parliament and won the seat in Bungsar constituency. He served the full five-year term, founding the Democratic Action Party of Malaysia in the process. He was its first Secretary-General.
In 1969 with his term in the Malaysian Parliament over, he decided to return to Singapore to help modernise and expand the labour movement. He resumed the post of Secretary-General of the NTUC and remained in it until 1979 when he became its President. Mr Nair was also president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Asian Regional Organisation, from 1976 to October 1981.
In 1979, Mr Nair stood for election in a by-election for the Anson constituency and won. He stood for election again in the 1980 General Election, and retained his seat as Member of Parliament for Anson. He resigned in October 1981 when he became President of the Republic of Singapore.
In recognition of Mr Nair's achievements and his leadership of the labour movement, he was awarded the Public Service Star in 1963. In 1976, the University of Singapore (now National University of Singapore) conferred on him an Honorary Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa).
Mr Nair was the author of four publications, namely "Who Lives If Malaysia Dies?", "Tomorrow: The Peril and the Promise", "Singapore: Socialism that Works", and "Asian Labour and the Dynamics of Change".
Mr Nair was married to Madam Avadai Dhanam and had three sons and a daughter. He passed away on 7 December 2005.
1971 - 1981
1971 – 1981
Second President of Singapore
Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares was appointed as President of the Republic of Singapore on 2 January 1971.
Dr Sheares was born on 12 August 1907 in Singapore. The son of a former Public Works Department Technical Supervisor, he rose to become Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore, a holder of five degrees, and one of the most highly respected men in his field.
Dr Sheares received his early education at the Methodist Girls' School, and later at St Andrew's School and Raffles Institution. He joined the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1923, and qualified with the degree of L.M.S. in March 1929. After serving two years as Assistant Medical Officer at the Sepoy Lines (now Singapore) General Hospital, he began his career in obstetrics and gynaecology in April 1931.
In 1940, Dr Sheares was awarded the Queen's Fellowship to do a two-year postgraduate study in Britain, but he could not proceed owing to the outbreak of World War II. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, he was Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Kandang Kerbau Hospital, and also Medical Superintendent of the Hospital for the local patients' section. After the Japanese surrendered, he became the first Singapore-born doctor to be appointed acting Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the King Edward VII College of Medicine.
In May 1947, Dr Sheares proceeded to London for postgraduate study, and in January 1948, was the first Singapore obstetrician to qualify as member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of England. In March 1948, while studying for the degree of Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, he was recalled to Singapore to act as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In June 1948, he was also appointed Honorary Consultant at the British Military Hospital. His academic qualifications were L.M.S., M.D., M.S., F.R.C.O.G., F.A.C.S.
In 1951, Dr Sheares spent the remainder of the Queen's Fellowship due to him in several leading universities in the United States of America which concentrated on teaching post-graduate Obstetrics and Gynaecology and in research work in these subjects.
Dr Sheares held the post of Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Malaya in Singapore in January 1950 until June 1960, when he retired and went into private practice. Upon his retirement he became Honorary Consultant at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital, and retained close contact with the teaching of both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Dr Sheares had lectured in the United States and Britain and wrote many articles for international and local journals. As a personal obstetrician and gynaecologist to some members of the Malaysian royal families, he was made a Dato of Kedah and of Kelantan for his services. He was directly associated, as a gynaecologist, with the problems of family planning in Singapore. In early 1970, he was also appointed to the Committee on Medical Specialisation. He was conferred the following awards:
Dr Sheares and his wife had three children. He passed away on 12 May 1981.
1965 - 1970
1965 – 1970
First President of Singapore
Encik Yusof bin Ishak, was born on 12 August 1910 at Padang Gajah, Trong, about 18 miles from Taiping, Perak. He was a Malay of Sumatran descent and could trace his lineage on the paternal side to Minangkabau, and on the maternal side to Langkat. They first settled in Penang and later, Perak.
Encik Yusof was the eldest son in a family of nine. His father, Encik Ishak bin Ahmad, was the Acting Director of Fisheries, Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. Encik Yusof received his early education in a Malay school in Kuala Kurau, Perak. He was later transferred to a Malay School at Taiping. In 1921, he began his English studies at King Edward VII School, Taiping.
When his civil-servant father was posted to Singapore in 1923, Encik Yusof accompanied his parents and studied at the former Victoria Bridge School until December 1923. In 1924, he was admitted to Raffles Institution where he passed the Cambridge School Certificate in 1927 with distinction, and prolonged his studies for two more years in the Queen's Scholarship class.
While in school, Encik Yusof joined in practically all forms of sport played by boys. At the Raffles Institution, he played hockey and cricket and took part in swimming, weight lifting, water-polo and boxing. In 1933, he became the Singapore light-weight champion. As the most outstanding cadet of the School Cadet Corps, he became the first student ever in Singapore to have been commissioned by the then Governor as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cadet Corps. He was a school prefect and was co-editor of the 'Rafflesian'.
After leaving school in 1929, Encik Yusof went into partnership with two friends and embarked on the publication of the "Sportsman", a fortnightly magazine devoted entirely to sports. In 1932, he joined the staff of 'Warta Malaya', the leading Malay newspaper of that time. His journalistic ability took him rapidly from the ranks to the top posts of Assistant Manager and Acting Editor within a short time. In 1938, he resigned from the 'Warta Malaya', and with a few close friends, established the 'Utusan Melayu Press Ltd'. In May 1939, the now well-known 'Utusan Melayu', came into being with Encik Yusof at the helm as its first Managing Director.
During most of the period of the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945), Encik Yusof remained in Malaya and on the capitulation of the Japanese Forces, he returned to Singapore on 3 September 1945, and immediately resumed publication of the 'Utusan Melayu'.
In 1948, Encik Yusof visited Britain as a member of the First Press Delegation. In early 1957, he went to Japan to inspect the latest machinery which the 'Utusan Melayu' had ordered. In May of the same year, he moved to Kuala Lumpur to supervise the construction of the Utusan Building. While in Kuala Lumpur, Encik Yusof was elected President of the Press Club of Malaya. He was the moving spirit behind the 'Utusan Melayu' during the difficult period of Malayan independence.
Encik Yusof also held many distinguished public appointments with the Singapore Government. From 1948 to 1950, he served on the Film Appeal Committee. He was a member of the Nature Reserves Committee for a year, and also of the Malayanisation Commission. In July 1959, he was appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Singapore. On 3 July 1965, Encik Yusof became the Chancellor of the University of Singapore.
Encik Yusof took up appointment as Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore on 3 December 1959. The Singapore Head of State paid a four-day State Visit with his wife Puan Noor Aishah to Cambodia in April 1963 and subsequently proceeded together in the same month to Mecca to perform the Haj, where they were the State Guests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A State Visit to Ceylon also took place in May 1963.
Encik Yusof was conferred the First Class Order of the Darjah Kerabat (The Most Esteemed Royal Family Order of Brunei) by the Sultan of Brunei in November 1960 and the Darjah Kebesaran Sri Maharajah Mangku Negara (S.M.N.) by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia in November 1963.
On 9 August 1965, when Singapore ceased to be a state in the Federation of Malaysia and became an independent and sovereign State, Encik Yusof became the first President of the Republic of Singapore. He was re-appointed for a further term of four years on 4 December 1967.
Encik Yusof bin Ishak was married to Puan Noor Aishah and had a son and two daughters. He passed away on 23 November 1970.
The President is responsible for safeguarding the national reserves and the integrity of the public service. The President also receives foreign dignitaries, officiates at state functions and performs other ceremonial and community duties.