Shih Choon Fong

Shih Choon Fong (Chinese: 施春风; born 1945) is the former president of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and a fracture mechanics expert. Before joining KAUST as Founding President in December 2008, he was president of the National University of Singapore (NUS) for 9 years and has been widely acknowledged[1] for creating the University's research-intensive focus with an entrepreneurial dimension, as well as for NUS' elevated global reputation. Drawing from his experiences abroad, Shih institutionalised a performance- and market-based evaluation and compensation system for academics.

Shih Choon Fong
Founding President of KAUST
In office
December 2008  June 2013
Succeeded byJean-Lou Chameau
1st President of the
National University of Singapore
In office
Succeeded byTan Chorh Chuan
Personal details
Born1945 (age 7374)
Spouse(s)Li Cheng
ResidenceBeijing, PRC & Singapore
Alma materSingapore Polytechnic, Harvard University
ProfessionUniversity Professor, National University of Singapore
Scientific career
FieldsApplied science
ThesisElastic-plastic analysis of combined mode crack problems (1973)
Doctoral advisorJohn W. Hutchinson

Prof. Shih was a key driver for the formation of the International Alliance of Research Universities, and led the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) for four years. He was the founding chair of the Governing Board of the APRU World Institute and served on national-level committees such as the Economic Review Committee, which crafted wide-ranging strategies for the re-making of Singapore.

Shih was announced as the Founding President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on 13 January 2008. Shih fully assumed this new role on 1 December 2008. Leading KAUST in its formative years, Shih promoted the university as a destination of choice for graduate education and cutting-edge research, where the synergy between education and research catalyzes ideas and innovations to address global challenges and improve lives. Under his guidance KAUST has become internationally respected among the world's best faculty, said then-chairman of KAUST's Board of Trustees and Saudi Oil minister Ali I. Al-Naimi in a tribute on Shih's stepping down. Shih was succeeded by Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau in July 2013.

Shih is among the highly cited researchers in the world for the category of engineering compiled by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

In 2004, Shih became the first Singaporean to be elected as a Foreign Associate to the United States National Academy of Engineering.[2]

He was awarded the French decoration "Chevalier" in the Order of the "Legion d'Honneur" in 2005.

In recognition of his work and research achievements, Shih was elected as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006.

Shih received Honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Loughborough University, Waseda University and Brown University.

In 2007, Shih received the inaugural Chief Executive Leadership Award for Asia Pacific presented by the Council for Advancement and Support for Education.

In 2016, an international symposium was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in honor of Shih on the occasion of his 70th birthday.[3]

In 2018, Shih received the Centennial Medal from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) for his innovative research and leadership in higher education.[4]

Shih serves in advisory roles and visiting committees with University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences Holdings, Peking University, SUSTech, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, American University of Sharjah, MIT, among others. He served on the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Judging Panel from 2012 to 2017.

Shih now divides his time between China, Singapore and US, working with universities, corporations and government agencies to promote market-based approaches for producing liquid fuels from solar energy and other renewable sources.

Those who admire his light-complexioned good looks and silvery mane of hair, have dubbed him "The Anderson Cooper of the Orient"[5]

1964 – 1966Singapore Polytechnic, Professional Diploma in Engineering
1968 – 1973Harvard University, Division of Applied Science, MS & PhD[6]
1969 – 1974American Science and Engineering, Mathematical Analyst
1974 – 1981General Electric, R&D, Head of Fracture Group
1981 – 1996Brown University, Associate Professor & Professor
1996 – 1999National University of Singapore, Founding Director of the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering
1997 – 2000National University of Singapore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor
2000 – Dec 2008National University of Singapore, Vice-Chancellor and President
Dec 2008 – Jun 2013King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Founding President[7]
Aug 2013 – presentNational University of Singapore, University Professor


  1. "A decade of dedicated leadership and service at NUS". NUS Knowledge Enterprise. 13 January 2008. Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  2. "Singapore scientist elected to prestigious US National Academy of Engineering". Channel NewsAsia. 28 February 2006.
  3. "A Symposium to celebrate Choon Fong Shih on the occasion of his 70th birthday". 17 May 2016. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  4. "Choon Fong Shih: 2018 Centennial Medal Citation | Harvard University - The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences". Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  5. Davie, Sandra (14 January 2008). "NUS President to leave at the end of this year" (PDF). Straits Times News. Retrieved 29 January 2008.
  6. Shih, Choon Fong (1974). Elastic-plastic analysis of combined mode crack problems (Ph.D.). Harvard University. OCLC 11449583 via ProQuest.
  7. "Shih Appointed KAUST President". Arab News. 13 January 2008.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lim Pin
as Vice Chancellor
President of National University of Singapore
Succeeded by
Tan Chorh Chuan
New creation President of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Succeeded by
Jean-Lou Chameau
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