An ACS boy through and through, he joined the ACS family as a pupil in Sitiawan.
His career as a teacher took him to Teluk Anson (1934 – 1947), MBS, Kuala Lumpur (1948 – 1951) and ACS, Singapore (1952 – 1969). He was principal at ACS Barker from 1961 to 1969.
He was interviewed in early 2005 for the ACS Echo (see article below); he was 91 years old then but still so sprightly and alert. He is indeed an ACS icon and we will miss him.
A Chat With Mr Lee Hah Ing - Principal of the Anglo-Chinese School in Barker Road from 1961-69.
Mr Lee Hah Ing is one person who has never lost focus on his vision of providing an all-round education to ACSians and to moulding and nurturing them to be responsible, loyal, useful citizens and leaders of the community. Under his able leadership, the school flourished and its student population grew considerably in size from 1,057 in 1961 to 1,990 in 1969. He was the driving force behind the building of the first Olympic-sized swimming pool for a Singapore school, and responsible for many other initiatives - among them, the Methodist Schools Festival of Sports to foster friendship and goodwill through competitive sports. For his valuable contribution to education, Mr Lee received the Public Service Star (BBM) award in 1969 from President Ishak Yusof.
When we dropped in at their home for a chat, Mr Lee and his wife welcomed us warmly. There, we also had the pleasure of meeting their daughter Ping Jin and her grandson Evan Foo, who is the youngest of Mr and Mrs Lee's three great grandchildren. Here's how our chat went.
Echo: Mr Lee, can you please tell us a little about your early childhood?
Mr Lee: I was born in China in 1914. When I was five years old, I accompanied my parents to settle in Kampong Koh, Sitiawan, a small town near Ipoh , Malaya .
My father, the late Reverend Lee Ko Ding, was assigned as pastor of the Pioneer Methodist Church there, where a small settlement of Christians from the Fukien Province in China had already settled.
My childhood was uneventful. After completing my primary education in ACS, Sitiawan, I proceeded to the ACS, Ipoh to complete my secondary school education. I stayed in Horley Hall, a boarding school managed by the school. It was a happy experience and I have fond memories of my stay there. In 1930, I obtained my Cambridge School Certificate.
Echo: Why did you choose the teaching profession?
Mr Lee: In the early 1930s, there were very few suitable employment opportunities. Fewer still were opportunities for further education. Besides King Edward VII Medical College , there was only Raffles College , which was established in 1928 and served mainly in the initial years to train graduates for the Education Service. In 1931, when a few of my schoolmates decided to go to Raffles College , I decided to join them.
When I graduated in 1934, the economic situation was pretty grim. Malaya and Singapore , like countries all over the world, were feeling the effects of the World Depression of the 1930s. There were very few employment opportunities and unemployment was rife. However, thanks to the Methodist Church , I was offered a teaching post in the ACS, Teluk Anson (now renamed Teluk Intan) in Perak. That was the beginning of 34 years of fulfilling life in the education service, spread among the Methodist schools – ACS, Teluk Anson (1934 – 1947), MBS, Kuala Lumpur (1948 – 1951) and ACS, Singapore (1952 – 1969).
Echo: Can you please share with us some of your memorable experiences and challenging moments as a teacher and Principal in ACS?
Mr Lee: When I first reported to Dr H. H. Peterson, Principal of ACS Singapore, in January 1952, I was informed that I would be temporarily posted to teach in Geylang Methodist Girls' School for about two months, as there was no immediate vacancy in the school. It was a unique but pleasant experience teaching in a girls' school. I still have happy memories of my two-month's stint there, as I found the girls very well behaved and attentive. I am still in contact with some of them, now all happy grandmothers!
I faced one of my most challenging moments in 1969 when I had to decide whether to build the Sports Complex comprising the Tan Chin Tuan Hall and the Olympic-size Shaw Swimming Pool, the first school in Singapore to have one. The economic situation then was not very favourable. Some people felt that the cost of maintaining a swimming pool would be prohibitive, and there were fears that it might end up "a white elephant".
On the other hand, the teachers and students were very enthusiastic and supportive. To show their support, the teachers willingly contributed a month's salary each, a very noble and generous gesture indeed!
In true ACS spirit, the students organized the "Fun-O-Rama" and other projects to raise the necessary funds. The school had no proper playing field or other sports facilities, and after months of agonizing, we finally gave the green light to build the Sports Complex, costing over a million dollars, when three of our biggest benefactors donated $100,000 each to the project.
Echo: If there are lessons in life that contributed to your illustrious career, can you please share them with our readers?
Mr Lee: Foremost, I must than k t he good Lord for the many blessings that have come my way. Born during the first World War and having lived through the Great Depression and the Japanese Occupation, perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt can be summarized in this quotation by Phillip Brooks: "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks."
Echo: Was there anyone from ACS who played a significant role in your life?
Mr Lee: Two Englishmen influenced my life a great deal when I was in school – Rev William Horley and Mr H. E. Bunn. They were both highly successful people but with different leadership styles.
When Rev Horley first arrived in Singapore , he taught in ACS Singapore (1894-1895). He was then transferred to Ipoh where he founded the ACS, Ipoh in 1895. Subsequently, Rev Horley established six other Methodist schools in various parts of Malaya . He was a tall and well-built man with silver hair. He was a very impressive and commanding figure, with a strong personality and a booming voice.
Mr Bunn was the House Master in Horley Hall and Supervisor in ACS, Ipoh . In contrast, he was an elderly man, soft spoken, gentle and friendly. Later in mid-1930s, he was transferred to Singapore where he taught in our Anglo-Chinese Continuation School , under Principal Rev E. S. Lau for a few years.
Echo: What would you say are the distinguishing characteristics of an ACS boy?
Mr Lee: Some people say you can sniff out an ACSian even from afar! What's unique about this brand of students? If I may venture to suggest, it is the holistic development that the school endeavours to grow in the students – one with a well-developed mind, body and spirit. It is hard to pin down exactly what qualities go into the so called ACS "spirit" – it has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Echo: What valuable advice can you offer our young ACSians?
Mr Lee: Again, if I may quote Phillip Brooks: "Be such a man, and live such a life, that if every man were such as you, and every life a life like yours, this earth would be God's Paradise."
Echo: If you were to relive your life again, would you follow the same path or take a different route?
Mr Lee: I don't think I will ever have a chance to relive this life again. As such, it might be better for us to prepare ourselves to give of our best, in service to God and man, however a life we lead.
Echo: Finally, Mr Lee, can you please tell us a little about your family. Did any of your children follow your footsteps?
Mr Lee: I have four children – three boys and a girl. All my boys were educated in ACS. Two are now working in Singapore and one in England .
I am glad that my only daughter, Ping Jin, followed my footsteps. She taught in ACPS Coleman Street for fifteen years. Later she resigned to look after her children.