[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, September 21, 2007

[One McNally Street]
1. I visited the new LASALLE campus at Prinsep Street last week and found it more beautiful that I had expected. The building design had won a prize even before it was built. Externally, the building has a sleek facade. It is like a block cleft into four pieces linked by bridges at different levels. Entering the internal space, there is a sense of activities buzzing all around because the internal walls are made of glass. A gentle slope of astro turf invites you to sit or lie down. Groups of students were gathered here and there, young men and women, of different nationalities. Peering into a drama rehearsal, I noticed that the performers were almost all Caucasian. You hear a cacophony of different accents among teachers and students. LASALLE has a wonderfully international character which is what the arts in Singapore have become.

2. My thoughts went back to old Brother Joe McNally who, after retirement, started the college with his CPF money. (He won't be able to do that now). When I entered politics in 1988, he invited me to his workshop at St Patrick's School (my alma mater) and asked me to be a patron. I accepted not because I expected the college to be a huge success but because I liked Brother and could not refuse him. As luck had it, I became MITA minister and was able to help the college through a difficult period when it was in debt and close to collapse. At a critical moment, SIA came in with $15m for which we should be eternally grateful. Part of the deal at that time was that the college should be called LASALLE-SIA. Last year, however, LASALLE agreed with SIA for its name to be removed. Instead the theatre in the new college will be named after the airline.

3. A few months ago, the road beside the college was named McNally Street in Brother's memory. What a lovely address to have: LASALLE College of the Arts, One McNally Street. Back where Brother grew up in the west country of Ireland, in County Mayo, we erected one of his sculptures (Counsellor) at the Irish National Museum of Country Life. Those who visit Ireland should not miss it. It is over 2m high with an inscription thanking the Irish people for their gift of Brother Joe and other Irish brothers to the people of Singapore and Malaysia.

4. After touring the campus, sipping soya bean milk from a nearby hawker centre (wonderful food all around the campus), I had a good discussion with the chairman and member of the board, and the college president. We talked about the future of the college and how it should offer degree courses as part of the expansion of university places in Singapore. LASALLE should also find ways to work with SMU which is a neighbour. Although the president and two VPs who have made significant contributions to the college have decided to move on early next year, the board assured me that there would be continuity. MOE has given written assurance of its continuing support.

5. I reflected that the college has become much bigger than Brother Joe. All of us who help it in one or another are but trustees of a tradition, of Brother's vision. The college should always keep its links to the De La Salle Brothers, to Ireland, SIA and other benefactors without whom Singaporeans won't have this wonderful institution today.

6. Two days later, before dinner at a nearby hotel, I brought my wife to see the college at night. It sparkled.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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