SP’s Campus at Prince Edward Road in 1960s
The idea of a guild for graduates of Singapore Polytechnic (SP) was first mooted in 1961, but it wasn't until then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's opening address to SP students at the Prince Edward Campus did the idea gain traction. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew asked the now-famous question: "Why don't you have a guild for graduates?"
Following a discussion held at a Union Executive Committee meeting, a Pro Tempore Committee was formed with the following Members:
• Mr Loke Pak Chee (Chairman)
• Mr Chan Pak Hong (Secretary)
• Mr Wong Siew Cheng (Treasurer)
• Mr Tan Toh Seng
• Mr Lim Kheng Hong
• Mr S K Bala
• Mr Lee Heng Guan
• Mr Yim Teck Lim
• Mr Teo Teck Soo
• Mr Ng Man Choong
On 9 June 1971, the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild was formally registered as a society with the Registry of Societies, with Ordinary Membership at $5, and Associate Membership at $10.
The Guild's first Annual General Meeting was held on 30 July 1971 at the Main Lecture Theatre in SP. It was here that the first Executive Committee was elected, with 163 Members. The Executive Committee Members were:
• Mr Wee Chwee Heng (President)
• Mr Yim Teck Lim (Vice President)
• Mr Bob S P Fang (Honorary General Secretary)
• Mr Chan Pak Hong (Assistant Honorary General Secretary)
• Mr Peter Mui (Honorary Treasurer)
• Mr Loke Pak Chee
• Mr Tan Cheng Siong
• Mr Teo Teck Soo
• Mr Wan Soon Yong
• Mr David Tan
To celebrate the 'birth' of SPGG, an inaugural dinner was held in April 1972 at the Mandarin Hotel, with then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as the Guest of Honor.
1980s - A Decade of Consolidation
On 26 January 1980, the 2nd Annual General Meeting was held, where the second Executive Committee was elected with Mr S K Bala as the new President.
The Guild was given a room on the first floor of the Staff Centre (EB7) on the 'hill', and then a bigger room on the ground floor.
After much negotiation with SP's Administration, SP's Library was opened to all graduates, including Guild Members. A membership recruitment drive followed, with talks to graduates—sometimes at army camps!—and circulars and appeals at SP's graduation ceremonies.
In March 1981, the Registry of Societies approved an amendment to the Constitution of SPGG, to offer Life Membership at the princely sum of $100. In November 1981, the 3rd Annual General Meeting took place, with Mr Ang Poh Soon as President. Mr Ang remained as President for the next three terms.
A Dinner & Dance was held at the Mandarin Hotel on 7 August 1982—in conjunction with the SP Graduation Ball —where 400 guests attended the annual event. The event's highlights included a fashion show by renowned etiquette and grooming expert Ms Elsa Yeo, and music by 1960s band, The McCoys.
For the 1981/1982 term, ten EXCO meetings were held. At one of these meetings, Advisor Mr Teh Yap Cheng who was the head of SP Student Affairs—suggested that the first step for the Guild was to increase its membership, with the long term aid of establishing a clubhouse.
On 24 August 1983, a Building Project Committee was set up. The Committee decided on two phases.
Advertising consultancy Al Marh-Ah helped to refine the clubhouse proposal with the legal and other requirements for setting up a bar, and membership recruitment, to sustain costs. There were visits to other clubs like NUSS, and the Singapore Cricket Club, to make comparisons.
On 15 October 1983, a lunch meeting was held with Principal of SP, Dr Khoo Kay Chai, at the NUS Guild House to discuss the clubhouse proposal. Dr. Khoo recognised the need for the Guild to have a place of its own, to attract more members and advised the meeting to make a big push for membership, especially since SP's 30th anniversary was approaching. He promised to present the proposal at the next SP Board of Governors (BOG) meeting.
The proposal was tabled at the 27th BOG meeting. The proposal requested for the following options:
• the lease of EB7 for ten years;
• lease a piece of land to build a clubhouse; or
• continue with the use of the nine-square meter room as a meeting place.
Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected. The Board doubted whether the Guild's dwindling membership of 35 people could raise the funds needed to build and operate a clubhouse. The second request of asking for a piece of land was deemed "a doubtful starter", in light of the Guild's financial position.
SPGG could only carry on as before, with its use of the meeting room at EB7.
During the 30th Anniversary Graduates' Reunion Dinner on 29 September 1984, the EXCO encouraged final year students to buy a one-year membership and attend the dinner, by authorizing the use of their "caution money" of $20.00. In attendance were 3,300 alumni, with Minister of State of Education Dr Tay Eng. Soon as the Guest of Honor.
On 28 November 1984, the Guild accepted SP's offer of the use of the top half of the Staff Centre as a clubhouse. The area was 300 square meters,
and the ground floor would be used as a child care center for the children of staff.
The first issue of the technical journal Polytechniques '84 was published on 8 December 1984.
President Mr Ang Poh Soon wrote to the editor of The Straits Times on 13 April 1985, to support many highly-qualified school leavers who preferred the polytechnic 'route' to get a good job, and that they should not be looked upon as inferior engineers.
A second letter in The Straits Times Forum Page on 7 May 1985 pointed out that the Full Technological Certificate offered by City & Guilds —which was an upgrading course for blue-collar workers—should not be the equivalent of the polytechnic diploma course, which was taught in depth for a longer period of time.
For the first time, new recruitment brochures on the new clubhouse design—and 5,000 marketing letters—were mailed to alumni in May 1985.
A sum of $150,000 was needed for the clubhouse's fixtures and furniture.
On 3 August 1985, the EXCO decided to impose a new entrance fee of $500 and a monthly subscription of $10 to $15, instead of imposing a building levy of $500.
In March 1986, Mr Teh Yap Cheng started to look for new leaders, by inviting a few alumni to stand for elections at the next AGM. Among them were Mr Jeffrey Lee Chin Hee, and Mr George Wong, who went on to form Singapore Polytechnic Industrial Management Alumni (SPIMA).
SPGG's 6th AGM was held on 10 May 1986, which saw a handover from the 5th EXCO, and Mr Jeffrey Lee was elected the President. Outgoing President Mr Ang Poh Soon acknowledged the need for new blood. With the $500,000 renovation promised by SP, and increasing membership, the new clubhouse would be the best solution to build a closer rapport amongst Members.
The EXCO explored alternative sites, like the hill overlooking the swimming pool. For the first time, a full-time staff—Ms Cindy Chong—was employed. SP sports facilities were now open to members on Sundays and Fridays at certain hours.
A re-registration exercise on 1 August 1986 netted 93 Life, and 80 Ordinary Members. The Guild crest was aligned to SP's, with the addition of a lighted bulb below it. On September 1986, the very first membership cards were produced.
The 7th Annual General Meeting was held on 18 October 1986—there was no AGM in 1985, so President Mr Jeffrey Lee called for two AGMs in 1986. In the five months in office, the 6th EXCO had set up a secretariat with a full-time administrative assistant, computerized membership records, and established a mechanism of subscription collection via the GIRO system. Activities such as sports, symposium, talks, and a dialogue with members were organized, and communication with members via circulars and newsletters was also re-vitalized.
The main task for the 7th EXCO was to establish a guild house—first mooted by the 5th EXCO—and to increase the variety of existing activities available to Members.
A reunion dinner for 23 Accountancy graduates was organized by Honorary Adviser Mr Teh Yap Cheng in February 1987. The quarterly Poly Guild News would now be known as Fission. On March 1988, The Business Time reported that SPGG would get a new clubhouse by August: "The colonial façade of Block 7—a remnant of the British legacy of the campus— will be retained." Reporter Ms Lily Fernandez interviewed Mr Jeffrey Lee, who expected membership to grow from 1,300 to 3,000.
Mr Teh Yap Cheng ceased to be Honorary Advisory on 25 September 1988, with Ms Ann Chiang appointed as the new Honorary Advisor.
1990s—A New Chapter of Growth
A Fundraising Dinner & Dance was held on 26 October 1991, with then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as the Guest-of-Honor. Five days later, planning started for the new clubhouse to be sited along Dover Road, next to the Singapore Polytechnic Sports Complex.
On 17 July 1992, the 1st Fundraising Golf Tournament for the Clubhouse Development Fund was held. Board of Governors Chairman Professor George Fong, and Dr Khoo Kay Chai were in attendance. The event was featured by The Straits Times and Lianhe Wanbao. The total amount raised was $101,191.71.
Exactly one year later, the 2nd Fundraising Dinner & Dance was held at the Mandarin Ballroom, with Guest-of-Honor Mr George Yeo, then-Minister for Information and the Arts. A total sum of $140,000.00 was raised.
In April 1995, the Urban Redevelopment Authority approved the specifications for the clubhouse: land area—0.72ha; gross plot ratio—1.3; building height—4 stores. In July, the first meeting of the Development Committee was held. Mr Edmund Tie agreed to chair this committee, which was a follow-up of the Development Advisory Committee. He nominated two consultants who had experience in operating clubs—Mr David Fong and Mr Guy Guillemard from CCA International.
During a meeting on 25 July 1995, Mr Guillemard out forward that $30 million to $40 million was needed to create an economically-viable club; that the membership entrance fee should be set at $10,000; and that there was no need to benchmark against the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), and no need to reach out to all alumni. The EXCO did not agree to these suggestions.
In August, he reiterated building a posh club, charging high fees to cater to the elite, and imposing a development charge on Members. The EXCO did not like this concept, and decided to let members decide at the next Annual General Meeting—if the Members wanted such proposals, instead of the original proposal of $10 million to $12 million, or the cheaper $6.5 million in building in stages, then the EXCO would promptly step down, as they had no experience running such a posh club.
On 22 September 1995, a Volunteers' Night was organised, honouring Dr Khoo Kay Chai, who was retiring on 25 September 1995. He was also invited to be a Senior Advisor to the Guild.
Through Dr Lim Boh Soon's efforts, Mr Peter Chen, Senior Minister of State (Education) agreed to be the Patron in April 1997.
Architectural planes were ready, but not the land lease between Singapore Polytechnic and the Land Office, not the sub-licensor agreement between Singapore Polytechnic and SPGG.
SPGG's Groundbreaking Ceremony was held on 6 May 1998. The piling started with a signal from Mr Peter Chen. The estimated cost of the project was $11 million.
On 25 May 1998, SPGG applied for IPC (Institution of Public Character) status to collect tax- exempt donations for its clubhouse. The purpose was to promote the interest and development of Singapore Polytechnic, by creating a meeting place for past and present students, and to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas on industrial technology. In May 1999, Mr Jeffrey Lee stepped down as President after 13 years. He did, however, accept the post of Vice President. Dr Lim Boh Soon became President.
During the 35th Board of Governors meeting on 18 August 1999, an information paper was presented to the Board's Administration & Development Committee to grant a larger loan of $2.5 million to the Guild project. It was approved, with the condition that within two years after the drawdown of Singapore Polytechnic's loan, the Guild would have recruited at least 400 members.
During the joint SP-SPGG dinner at the Mandarin on 8 October 1999, Mr Jeffrey Lee announced the commencement of construction work. At a cost of $9 million, this new clubhouse with sports facilities was slated to be ready in October 2000. Financial support of a $2.5 million loan came from Singapore Polytechnic, with a $5 million loan from Keppel TatLee Finance, and another $3 million from the Guild's own case reserves. It was to be the only graduates' society with a bowling alley.
2000 to 2010—The New Millennium
On 10 October 2000, the Guild officially moved into the new clubhouse. Sharing in the joy were Mr. Peter Chen, Senior Minister of State (Education) and Patron of SPGG, President Dr Lim Boh Soon, and Vice President Mr Jeffrey Lee. A lion dance and daiko drums were performed by Singapore Polytechnic students, with a press conference held at the poolside.
In January 2001, SPGG started leasing out 10 small offices at its new Business Centre.
On 16 April 2001, Dr Lim Boh Soon wrote to appoint Ms Ann Chiang as Senior Advisor to the Guild. On 20 April the same year, the Strawberry & Spice restaurant was officially opened, with Guest-of-Honor Mr Low Wong Fook, Principal of Singapore Polytechnic.
The Grand Opening of SPGG took place on 12 May 2001. It was declared open by Guest of Honor Dr Tony Tan, then-Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense.
Mr Jimmy Lim Hock Seng was elected as President of the 24th EXCO at the AGM, and continued to hold the post for three two-year terms until 2011. He would later become President again at the 34th Annual General Meeting in 2013.
During the 27th Annual General Meeting held on 27 October 2006, the resolution "Persons who are Life Members before the coming into force of this Constitution an who continue to be Life Members, shall with effect from 1 January 2008, not be required to pay any subscription" was adopted by a two-third majority vote with 39 members voting for, and 18 voting against.
Mr Lim Chin Aik (left) with Mr Jimmy Lim Hock Seng (right)
In 2008, Mr Lim Chin Aik was conferred the title of Honorary Member, as a tribute to his many years of dedicated and distinguished service to SPGG.
Honorary Membership was conferred to Mr Peter Chen in 2009, for his illustrious contributions to the Guild as SPGG's Patron and to polytechnic education when he was the Minister-in-charge of the Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE).
In 2010, the Guild conferred Honorary Membership to Dr Khoo Kay Chai for his sterling contributions to the Guild, both when he was the Principal of Singapore Polytechnic, and as Senior Advisor to the Guild.
On 10 October 2010, the Guild held a celebration to mark its 10th Guildhouse Anniversary. Mr Tan Hang Cheong, Principal of Singapore Polytechnic, and former Principals Mr Low Wong Fook and Dr Khoo Kay Chai graced the occasion with their presence as Guests of Honor. The revitalized Vision of making SPGG a 'Club of Distinction with activities of Diversity' was unveiled by Mr Jimmy Lim.
Part of the plans to realize the Guild's new vision included a massive renovation exercise. The first phase saw the Male and Female Wellness Centers officially opened on 13 November 2012, following a S$500,000.00 renovation, exposing a stylish, modern, and eye-catching new decoration.
There was unanimous support for Constitutional Amendments at SPGG's 31st Annual General Meeting, to allow non-transferable membership to become transferable.
2011 to 2014—Rebranding
On 1 April 2011, the Guild held its first ever dialogue session with then-Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong, on the topic 'What is Singapore's Future?'
In 2012, a new signage was launched at the Guild's entrance, which was sponsored by Singapore Polytechnic.
The second phase of renovation was underway, with a revamp of the Poolside Café, and the former Prince Edward Lounge renamed to Luster Lounge; Luster Lounge came under a new pub management.
Two Honorary Memberships were conferred to former Singapore Polytechnic Principals Mr Low Wong Fook, and Mr Tan Hang Cheong.
The SPGG Endowment Fund was officially launched on 22 February 2013, during the Guild's annual Lo Hei Luncheon celebration.
The Fund's aim was to help Singapore Polytechnic students who had fallen through the cracks of existing bursary schemes.
The event was graced by Patron of SPGG, Mr Chan Soo Sen, and Singapore Polytechnic principal Mr Tan Choon Shian. A cheque of S$285,400.00 was presented to Mr Tan Choon Shian by SPGG Endowment Fund Chairman, Mr Jimmy Lim.
In partnership with the Singapore Polytechnic Entrepreneurs' Club (SPEC), the Guild hosted a dialogue on entrepreneurship with Mr Teo Ser Luck, then-Minister of Trade and Industry on 25 September 2013.
The Straits Times published an article on the SPGG Endowment Fund in its National Day issue on 9 August 2014, announcing that the first batch of 25 Singapore Polytechnic students would be benefiting from the bursary.
On 22 March 2014, the newly-launched Youth Chapter had its first event: Wine 101. The Youth Chapter was launched with the aim of engaging the youth demographic, and creating more events that youths would be interested in.
Then-Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam was at SPGG on 3 June 2014 for a dialogue on 'Singapore Restructuring: How do we ensure the competitive edge of Singapore's and Businesses into 2020?"