In memoriam: Emeritus Professor Lee Seng Lip

Professor Lee Seng Lip was the President of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society in 1987-1990.

Professor Lee Seng Lip was the President of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society in 1987-1990

Prof. Lee was at AIT as back as 1969 or so as the Head of the then Structural Engineering and Construction Division. He was then on a US Secondment with Dr. Za Chieh Moh and others.  When the US Secondment came to an end in 1975, Prof. Lee moved to NUS in Singapore as a Professor and Head of Civil Engineering. Under Prof. Lee’s leadership, NUS Civil Engineering grew substantially and is now known worldwide. 

Prof. Lee was also a President of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society. He continued his contribution to SEAGS till his demise a few days back.  A Ph.D. graduate of the University of California Berkeley, he received several prestigious awards in Structural and Geotechnical engineering.  

Prof. Lee Seng Lip is an Emeritus Professor of the Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore. Prof. Lee graduated from Mapua Institute of Technology, Manila with a BSCE Degree and was awarded the President’s Gold Medal in 1950. He obtained his MSE Degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1951 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1953.  Upon graduation, he worked for Bechtel Corporation, San Francisco, until the fall of 1955 when he joined the Department of Civil Engineering at North-western University, Evanston, Illinois, as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to full Professor in 1960 and supervised 26 Ph.D. graduates before joining the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, in 1968 as Professor and Head of Division of Structural Engineering and Mechanics. He supervised 13 DEng graduates before joining the National University of Singapore in 1975 as Professor and Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, a position he held until 1989.

He was conferred an Emeritus Professorship in 1990 and continued to serve as Professorial Fellow. To-date he has supervised 14 Ph.D. graduates. His research interests cover infrastructural engineering with particular reference to structural, geotechnical, and construction technology in which field he has published more than 500 papers in international and regional journals and conferences and delivered many keynote addresses in many countries. He has served as advisor/consultant in numerous infrastructure projects, director of companies in the industry, and is co-holder of a patent on Fibre drain for consolidation of soft clay.  He is an Honorary Fellow of IES, an Honorary Member of ASCE, and a recipient of the University of California Berkeley Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award (1991).

For his contributions in civil engineering education, research and development, and professional practice, he has received honours and awards which include A P Greenfelder Construction Prize (1982) of American Society of Civil Engineers, Maurice P van Buren Structural Engineering Award (1989) of American Concrete Institute, International Federation of Asian and Pacific Contractors Association and Philippine Contractors Association Foundation Research Awards for Works on Deep Basements (1979) and Soil Stabilization (1982), Public Administration Medal (Silver) Singapore(1985), Singapore National Science and Technology Award (1987) and First Institution of Engineers Singapore Innovators’ Award (1990). He was the President of Southeast Asia Geotechnical Society from 1990 to 1992.  A symposium on Innovative Solutions in Structural and Geotechnical Engineering was held in his honour (1999), jointly sponsored by the School of Civil Engineering, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand and Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore Prof. Lee Seng Lip was the President of the Southeast Asian Geotechnical Society in 1987-1990.

From Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai Former President of AIT (2013-2018)

Passing Away of Structural and Geotechnical Giant of Asia









28 November 2021 (12:46 am)

Just about two hours ago, I was saddened by the receipt of an unwelcomed message that Professor Seng-Lip Lee, former Chairman of the Structural Engineering Division of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) during 1968-1975 has passed away at the age of 96. The following was a message from Prof KY Yong, who worked under Prof Seng Lip Lee at National University of Singapore (NUS) after he left AIT in 1975.

“I am sad to inform you of the passing of Emer Prof LEE Seng-Lip, our Past President, SEAGS – an educator, mentor and a friend to many of us – this morning, 27 November. The family of the late Seng Lip has requested to keep the funeral private and have invited only 12 former close friends and close NUS colleagues of Seng Lip to attend the cremation service on Monday 30 November. I will be attending the Monday service and will express on your behalf the condolences from SEAGS Past and Presidents, Past and Present SGs to the family of the late Seng-Lip. Please pray for Seng Lip in your own way. Bless his soul and may he rest in peace.”

It should be noted that structural engineering students at AIT during the golden period of 1968-1975 have significantly benefited from the strong world-class leadership of Prof Seng Lip Lee, not only from his brilliant lecture in the classroom but also from his professional and personal advices outside the classroom.

In my case, I was lucky and still feel very grateful for his guidance and recommendation leading to my award of the Fulbright Scholarship to continue my doctoral degree at University of California at Berkeley.

When his secondment term was over, he was recruited by National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1975 and has played an up-starting role in shaping NUS to be a world class university today. It was indeed an AIT’s loss and NUS’s gain.

Prof Lee is a visionary, always well ahead of his time, with deep insights of regional need for infrastructural development. He has contributed his innovative and creative solutions, in civil engineering education, research and development, and professional practice in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

On behalf of his former AIT colleagues and students, I want to express our sincere gratitude as he has touched so many hearts, and opened so many minds at AIT. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

From NUS and Professor K.Y. Yong past President of SEAGS

Emeritus Prof Lee is remembered by friends and colleagues as a great leader, educator and engineer

In memoriam: Emeritus Professor Lee Seng Lip, respected engineer and educator

Having joined NUS in 1975 as Professor and Head of Department for Civil Engineering, he held that position until 1989 when he was conferred an Emeritus Professorship.

Emeritus Prof Lee is remembered by friends and colleagues as a great leader, educator and engineer who contributed significantly to the Department, the University and to the growth and development of Singapore. Thousands of former students, who have gone on to make their marks on industry and academia, also fondly remember the impact that Emeritus Prof Lee has made on their lives.

In recognition of his accomplishments in the engineering industry, academia and the wider community, Emeritus Prof Lee was awarded the first Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award in 2013.

Visionary engineer and leader

A Ph.D. graduate of the University of California Berkeley, he received the institution’s Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award in 1991.

A keen golfer and swimmer as well as a passionate engineer, Emeritus Prof. Lee was known for maintaining a busy schedule which he continued well into his retirement.

Described by one IES council member as an “innovative visionary”, Emeritus Prof Lee was involved in the construction of some of Singapore’s most iconic buildings.

For example, during the construction of Changi Airport, Emeritus Prof. Lee proposed an innovative construction method for the control tower, allowing it to be completed under tight deadlines.

Several years later, he was also a consultant on the Marina Bay Sands project, advising on how to ensure structural integrity in the sloping sides of the development’s main towers.

A particular focus of Emeritus Prof. Lee’s work and research was on structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and construction technology related to high-rise buildings. However, his work covered many other areas including the vibrations of buildings caused by wind, marina construction, as well as canal and riverside construction.

In the late 1980s, he developed a method of employing seabed clay sandwiched between thin sand layers which was applied to reclaim 40-hectares of land at Changi South Bay, thus slashing the costs of the project by a third.

The Changi Airport control tower and Marina Bay Sands development are among several Singapore landmarks in which Emeritus Prof Lee was instrumental in the construction of.

Renowned academic, passionate educator

Emeritus Prof. Lee also had a storied career in academia, publishing more than 500 papers in international and regional journals. He also taught several thousand students, many of whom went on to become fellow professors in the field or respected practicing engineers.

“NUS mourns the loss of an outstanding engineer, scholar, and educator. Emeritus Prof. Lee’s immeasurable legacy will always be treasured and remembered by his colleagues, students, and friends who have had the privilege of knowing and working with him. He will be deeply missed by many of us in NUS,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

In fact, Emeritus Prof. Lee’s lifelong passion was revealed in a newspaper interview in 2013, when he was asked about the proudest achievement from his career.

Rather than naming a famous landmark on the Singapore skyline, he said, “I’m proudest of the fact that I’ve educated many engineers, who have contributed to the infrastructural development in Singapore and Southeast Asia.”

Professor Richard Liew, Head of NUS Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), said of Emeritus Prof. Lee’s passing, “We are truly honoured to have Emeritus Professor Lee as our pioneer in CEE family. His memory and legacy will remain forever etched in our minds and of those who knew him.”














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