About Mr. C J Koh
The NUS Law Library entered a major chapter in its history on 1 January 2001, when it was renamed the C J Koh Law Library. All this was made possible with the generous donation from the late philanthropist and lawyer, Mr. Koh Choon Joo, fondly known as Mr. C J Koh. The late Mr. Koh's pledge of $5 million in 1997 made it possible for the law library to embark on an extensive renovation and extension project in July 2000 at Kent Ridge. This culminated in the official opening of the C J Koh Law Library under its new name on 27 February 2002.
The late Mr. Koh's generous nature can be seen in his many donations to various educational institutions. NUS has benefited greatly from Mr C J Koh’s donation of more than 7 million, which includes a $5 million pledge for the Law Library building, $2 million to set up the C J Koh Professorship in Law(launched in October 1996), $200,000 for two law scholarships, a donation of $500,000 to the NUS Endowment Fund to initiate acquisition of law books for the C J Koh Collection at the Law Library and $30,000 to kick-start this collection.
Mr. C J Koh was born in Indonesia in 1901, the second son of Mr. Koh Ijin Keng. His father, a merchant from Tegal, Java, Dutch East Indies, sent him to England at the tender age of six for his early education. He stayed with a Welsh family and studied in North Wales. He later proceeded to London, where he was admitted to the Middle Temple on 17 March 1925. Our research shows that Mr. C J Koh was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple on 26 January 1928. He was described in the Middle Temple records as being 28 years old, a headmaster holding a B.A. (Wales) and being resident at 5 Talgarth Road, West Kensington, W14. Upon being called, Mr. Koh came to Singapore and joined Sir Song Ong Siang in his law firm and practised law till he set up his own practice.
Mr. Koh is remembered as a quiet and reserved individual. He enjoyed writing poetry and fiction. He read the works of great philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle, and even kept a scrapbook with his thoughts on these philosophical works and his own observations on life. Mr. Koh was an enthusiastic artist and avid art collector. In his retirement years, he completed some 400 oil paintings, several of which are now displayed in the C J Koh Art Gallery in the Law Library. A self-taught artist, Mr. Koh only stopped painting when he was too feeble to do so. As a lawyer, he inspired great loyalty among his clients, so much so they always insisted that he was their lawyer when they needed legal advice. He also served as a magistrate in the Juvenile Court in Singapore in an honorary capacity at the age of 50. This remarkable and unassuming gentleman passed away peacefully on 6 September 1997, at the ripe old age of 96.
NUS will always remember the generosity and vision of this remarkable man. The C J Koh Law Library, in particular, wishes to express its sincere gratitude and thanks to the late Mr. Koh. His invaluable donation has helped the Law Library take its place among the premier law libraries of the world. We would also like to express our gratitude to his Trustee, the late Mr. Ong Tiong Tat, for his sincerity and enthusiasm in perpetuating Mr. C J Koh’s name and vision.
Written by Mrs. Thavamani Prem Kumar
1 January 2001