Yale’s Pericles Lewis to be inaugural Yale-NUS president

A scholar of British and European literature and a leader in the field of modernism, Lewis has already helped shape the Yale-NUS curriculum and chaired the committee responsible for recruiting humanities faculty.
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Professor Pericles Lewis, who will be the inaugural president of Yale-NUS College, has already played an instrumental role in planning the college's academic programs. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Yale professor Pericles Lewis has been appointed the inaugural president of Yale-NUS College, according to the college’s Governing Board.

The board also announced that National University of Singapore professor Lai Choy Heng has been named executive vice president for academic affairs. Both appointments are effective July 1.

A distinguished scholar of British and European literature and a leader in the field of modernism, Lewis joined the Yale faculty in 1998 and has appointments in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature. Lewis has played an instrumental role in developing the new college’s academic programs and planning its curriculum, and chaired the committee responsible for recruiting humanities faculty, noted the governing board in its announcement.

At Yale, Lewis has served as director of graduate studies for comparative literature, director of undergraduate studies for the literature major, and chair of the committees on library policy and Yale College majors. He has served on the University’s budget committee and the executive committee of the Whitney Humanities Center. He led searches for the University librarian and the librarian of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Kay Kuok, chair of the Yale-NUS governing board, said: “Professor Lewis has demonstrated remarkable leadership in helping to launch the new college this past year.  We were all very impressed by his enormous passion for the new college and his exceptional ability to identify the most important issues and to motivate and work with others to address them.”

“One of the key roles of the inaugural president is to create a dynamic community and energizing environment that will enable the college to pioneer a truly innovative educational program and help realize the promise of this exciting initiative,” said Tan Chorh Chuan, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS). “Professor Lewis is well-suited for this role. He also brings with him a deep knowledge and understanding of Yale.”

Yale President Richard C. Levin added: “Professor Lewis is a naturally talented academic leader who has demonstrated his capacity for leadership in many important roles at Yale. Most significantly, he has displayed an impressive mastery of the needs of the new college and an infectious enthusiasm that will motivate others to work for its success.”

Charles Bailyn, the inaugural dean of the faculty at Yale-NUS College and the A. Bartlett Giamatti Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Yale, said, “I am thrilled with this appointment. Professor Lewis is a long-time colleague, and I look forward to working with him in his new role in the years to come.”

Of his appointment, Lewis said, “It is an extraordinary privilege to have the opportunity to lead this new college as we re-imagine undergraduate education for the 21st century.”

Lewis earned his undergraduate degree from McGill University and his doctorate from Stanford University in 1997. He is the author of “Modernism, Nationalism and the Novel” (2000), “The Cambridge Introduction to Modernism” (2007), and “Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel” (2010). He is the editor of “The Cambridge Companion to European Modernism” (2011) and “The Norton Anthology of World Literature,” which was published this spring. Lewis has received a variety of academic honors, as well as awards for his contribution to extracurricular and intellectual life.

Lewis will be splitting his time during the next academic year between New Haven and Singapore while the planning for the new college advances.  He and his family will move to Singapore full-time in early summer 2013.

Also on the Yale-NUS leadership team

Lai Choy Heng, a theoretical physicist, has been vice provost for academic personnel at NUS since 2003. A member of the NUS faculty since 1980, he was dean of the Faculty of Science from 2000 to 2003. Since 2007, he has been deputy director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies. Lai received his undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Chicago. He has published over 130 papers in internationally refereed journals.

“Yale-NUS is very fortunate to attract Professor Lai to this important academic position,” said Tan. “Apart from his distinguished record of research and administrative leadership accomplishments, Professor Lai is passionate about liberal arts education and deeply believes in the potential for Yale-NUS College to pioneer a new model for Asia for the future. With his strong personal interest and expertise in Western classical music and Chinese Classics, he brings highly complementary qualities to the Yale-NUS leadership team.”

Earlier this year, Doris Sohmen-Pao was appointed executive vice president for administration at Yale-NUS. She has held senior positions in both academic and business institutions. Most recently, she was the director of human capital for Bain & Company, Southeast Asia. She has served on the board of trustees of Princeton University, where she received her undergraduate degree. She earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Tan said, “Doris brings with her a rare combination of extensive administrative leadership experience and a deep understanding of academia and higher education. It has been a great pleasure working closely with her over the past few months. In particular, her passion for the College, focus, and administrative abilities are most impressive.”

“This is an outstanding leadership team which we confidently believe will guide Yale-NUS to success in the years ahead,” Levin said.

Yale-NUS College, a highly selective liberal arts college developed by Yale and the National University of Singapore, will open in August 2013 in Singapore. The college will welcome an inaugural cohort of 150 students to explore the depth and breadth of both Western and Asian traditions, histories, values and cultures. Prevailing models of residential liberal arts and science education will also be re-imagined for the 21st century with Asia as the context. The campus will eventually be home to 1,000 students and approximately 100 faculty members.

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