Born 1925 in Hong Kong. Earl Lu is a surgeon, soldier, painter and collector. Began his studies of painting in 1956 with Chen Wen Hsi. He has led, served on the board and acted as advisor to numerous governmental and non-governmental museums, committees and societies devoted to the arts. He was the first Chairman of the Singapore Art Museum and is a member of the Museum Board of the National University of Singapore. In 1995 he was awarded the Public Service Star Award.


Thursday, 15 September 2005, 6.30pm

At The Glass Hall, Singapore Art Museum

Eulogy on the late Dr Earl Lu

By Professor Tommy Koh, Chairman, National Heritage Board


1 Mr Yatiman Yusof, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, MICA, Your Excellencies, members of the Lu family, friends and fellow admirers of Earl Lu. I wish to thank the Lu family for giving me the privilege of delivering an eulogy on behalf of the Earl Lu fan club. It is easy to praise Earl because he was such an accomplished and lovable man. He had made many important contributions to Singapore. Let me briefly mention seven of them.

"One of Singapore's Best Surgeons"

2 First, Earl Lu was considered by his peers as one of Singapore's best surgeons. Professor Tow Siang Hwa, the much respected former professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, said he used to refer complicated cases to Dr Lu. Prof Tow recalled that Dr Lu was always able to help his patients and was calm, reassuring and unflappable. Dr Richard Yung, another one of our famous obstetricians and gynaecologists, said he always looked up to Earl as a mentor. Earl loved surgery and continued to operate until 2003.

Contributions to Medical Education

3 Second, in spite of his busy practice, Earl found the time to teach at our Medical Faculty. He taught and examined students in anatomy, physiology and surgery. According to my wife, who was one of his students, Earl was a gifted teacher. He was knowledgeable, eloquent and charismatic. His charm and sense of humour helped him to connect with his students and to gain and retain their attention.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Earl Lu

4 Third, Earl loved Singapore. One of the ways in which he showed his love for Singapore was to volunteer to serve as a National Serviceman. He served in the SAF Field Hospital for quite a number of years, guiding the younger surgeons. According to my research, Lt Col Dr Earl Lu was the first surgeon to have operated on a young soldier for acute appendicitis in the field in 1974. Earl's love for Singapore was fully repaid. He was made a Justice of the Peace in 1990 and was conferred the Public Service Star in 1995.

Earl the Artist and Art Collector

5 Fourth, Earl loved art as much as he loved surgery. Unlike most of us, I suspect that his left brain and right brain were equally well developed. He learned to paint under our great pioneer artist, Chen Wen Hsi. Earl would master the brush as he did the scalpel. In order not to copy his mentor and to carve an artistic niche of his own, he decided to specialise in painting roses. He also painted the human figure and landscape, but his artistic moniker is roses. One of his favourite weekly activities was to go to LASALLE-SIA College, on Saturday afternoons, with his second son, Paul, to join a group of fellow artists to paint nudes. After he retired from surgery in 2003, Earl rented a studio in Clemenceau Avenue and would go there each day to paint. He was also a collector and a generous patron of other artists. He collected the works of Chen Wen Hsi, David Kwo, Lim Nan Seng, Tung Ying Yung and many others.

Founding Chairman of Singapore Art Museum

6 Fifth, in 1992, Earl was appointed the founding chairman of the Singapore Art Museum, a position he held until 2000. Under Earl's leadership, SAM has acquired probably the most comprehensive collection of 20th Century Southeast Asian art in the world, as well as works the contemporary artists of India and China. Earl had been a student in India during the Second World War. Because of this unique experience, he was as knowledgeable about India as he was about China and Southeast Asia. Earl also guided the museum to grow into one with a comprehensive array of local and international programmes. After he stepped down as Chairman, he continued to serve on the museum's advisory committees. He had also chaired the Istana's Art Collection Advisory Committee since 2000. The Singapore Art Museum will always remember the pivotal role played by its founding chairman.

Philanthropist and Benefactor

7 Sixth, Earl Lu was a very generous philanthropist and benefactor. Let me cite a few examples. He gave his entire collection of Southeast Asian ceramics to the Asian Civilisations Museum. He gave his collection of Chen Wen Hsi's works to the Singapore Art Museum. He was also a benefactor of the LASALLE-SIA College. He had a special bond with Brother Joe McNally. Earl shared Brother Joe's vision and helped him to turn it into reality. He served on its board from its inception until 2003. He donated part of his art collection as well as funds to the College. In return, the College named its art gallery the Earl Lu Gallery. I had the honour of officiating at its opening in 1986. Apart from ACM, SAM, LASALLE-SIA, Earl also sold his paintings to raise funds for the Saint Andrew's Mission Hospital, the Mount Alvernia Hospital and for many other charities. As Esther, Earl's sister, has told me, "Earl's outstanding gift was his great generosity".

A Great Human Being

8 Seventh, we celebrate Earl's life because he was a great human being. He was always cheerful, charming, kind, witty, gracious and approachable. Professor V K Pillay has described him as a "perfect gentleman who could get along with any one". Professor C N Lee has described him as a "classy gentleman". Esther has told me that Earl was the "best brother in the world". Earl, dear friend, we thank you for having been a blessing to all of us. We thank you for having brought sunshine, beauty, roses, optimism, humour and joy into our lives. We shall miss you very much. Today is Earl's 80th birthday. I will, therefore conclude by saying, "Happy Birthday, Earl".