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The Harvard Prize Book and the Singapore Prize

singapore prize

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and is among the world’s foremost universities. Its alumni have included 48 Nobel laureates, 32 heads of state and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners. The university has an enviable reputation worldwide and its students are known for their altruism. The Harvard Prize Book recognises those who put the needs of others above their own interests and who strive to make a difference in society. The prize was first established in 2014 to honour alumni of Harvard University who have made significant contributions to the country and to humanity. The prize consists of a S$30,000 cash award and a commissioned trophy. This year’s shortlist includes works by 91-year-old Malaysia author Suratman Markasan, who is the winner in the Malay language category; Wang Gungwu from China who is the winner in the English language category; and rma cureess, a Tamil writer, who won the readers’ choice award.

This year’s Singapore Prize is dedicated to a book that makes an outstanding contribution to the understanding of our national history and identity. Its inaugural winner, Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea, 1300-1800, is the work of archaeologist John N Miksic who spent more than 20 years in Singapore conducting archaeological excavations at sites such as Fort Canning and Old Parliament House. He said the prize is a “great encouragement” and he hopes to continue to contribute to the history of Singapore.

Besides the main prize, there are four other categories for Singapore-themed works to be awarded: children’s literature, non-fiction, poetry and fiction. The shortlist for each category was selected by a panel comprising Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow at the NUS Asia Research Institute and former head of the department of history, and three other experts.

Another NUS initiative to recognise the work of Singapore writers is the Dr Alan HJ Chan Spirit of Singapore Book Prize, which was established with a generous donation from the late Mr Chan. The prize aims to honour a work that best epitomises, inspires and promotes the spirit of Singapore with a top prize of S$30,000. It is selected by a panel that includes academics from SUSS and other Autonomous Universities, distinguished writers and critics, and publishers.

Meanwhile, the Singaporean-designed Kampung Admiralty housing complex has beaten flashier competition from around the world to win this year’s World Building Of The Year prize at the prestigious World Architecture Festival. It beat the likes of a high school in the Ivory Coast and Thomas Heatherwick’s celebrated Zeitz MOCAA, a museum built into disused grain silos in Cape Town. The winning design was chosen for its integration of public facilities, community space and over 100 apartments for senior citizens. The award is one of the most coveted in the industry.