Light & Verity

Yale professor to head Singapore college

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

English and comparative literature professor Pericles Lewis, who has helped plan the curriculum for Yale–NUS College, will be the college's first president. View full image

From the beginning, English and comparative literature professor Pericles Lewis has been active in designing the curriculum of Yale-NUS College—the university’s joint venture with the National University of Singapore to create a pioneering liberal arts college in Singapore. Recently, he says, he “expressed interest in being more involved.” In May, Lewis got his wish, and then some, when it was announced that he will be the college’s first president.

Lewis, who will retire from the Yale faculty to take the job, says he’ll be responsible for all aspects of the college’s operations: overseeing academic and financial matters, hiring staff, and “making sure the buildings go up.” He will divide his time between Singapore and New Haven until the college opens in the summer of 2013, at which time he and his family will move to Singapore.

Lewis, a graduate of McGill and Stanford, came to Yale in 1998. He studies British and European literature of the twentieth century. His wife, Sheila Hayre ’02JD, a public-interest lawyer, will work in the law school at NUS. They have two children, Siddhartha (12) and Maya (10). (“We like seeing the world,” he says of his family.)

There has been pushback on the Yale-NUS venture from some of Lewis’s faculty colleagues, who are uneasy about Singapore’s human rights record. Lewis is among those who have defended the project. In February, he coauthored a Yale Daily News op-ed essay arguing that, while “Singapore has very different laws and traditions from our own,” nevertheless “Yale needs to engage in the world.” Lewis says some people in Singapore were offended by the Yale faculty’s April resolution criticizing the country (see “Delayed Reaction,” May/June), but “in the long run this is a very solid partnership.”

The Yale-NUS campus is under construction, and the college has hired 36 faculty members, many of whom, Lewis says, are coming from tenured positions at “prestigious American universities.” Some 20 members of the new faculty will be in New Haven full time during the next academic year, planning Yale-NUS’s curriculum.