Board of Trustees
YBhg Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah AO
Founder and Chairman, Sunway Group
An accountant by training, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah AO began his professional career at a motor assembly plant in Malaysia. In 1974, he founded the Sunway Group, one of Malaysia’s largest conglomerates with core interests in real estate and construction, and a 16,000-strong workforce. Its 13 business divisions span 50 locations worldwide.
Tan Sri Cheah has been admitted to 11 honorary doctorates by leading universities worldwide. In 2008, he was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) by the Prime Minister of Australia. The Order of Australia is one of Australia’s most prestigious and highly regarded awards conferred on a non-citizen of Australia. He is also the Chairman and Co-Founder of Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI). He was conferred the Honorary Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) title in February 2013 by Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police (IGP) for his commendable efforts as Chairman of Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (Selangor Chapter).
Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah established the Sunway Education Trust Fund in 1997, which was converted to the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation (JCF) in 2010. He transferred his equity in Sunway Education Group’s (SEG) learning institutions worth several billion Ringgit today to the Foundation in perpetuity. The institutions include Sunway University, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sunway College and Sunway International School, amongst others. The JCF was officially launched by the Prime Minister of Malaysia on 18 March 2010 in the presence of the Foundation’s Royal Patron, His Royal Highness Sultan of Selangor.
In December 2011, Tan Sri Cheah was appointed by the Minister of Education to Malaysia’s Education Panel to review the nation’s education system. He is the Founding Trustee of the Board of Mahathir Science Award Foundation, Razak School of Government, and the Perdana Leadership Foundation.
With generous endowments, Tan Sri Cheah, through JCF, has forged academic ties with Harvard University, and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In July 2013, he established in Harvard the Jeffrey Cheah Professorship, the Jeffrey Cheah Funds for Southeast Asia Studies, the Jeffrey Cheah Visiting Professorship, and the Jeffrey Cheah Travel Grants, in perpetuity. This initiative will serve to advance teaching and research on Southeast Asia Studies at Harvard University, and to enable a two-way flow of scholars and researchers between Harvard University and the institutions of Sunway Education Group. In August 2014, Tan Sri Jeffrey received a special invitation from the President of Harvard University to be a member of the Global Advisory Council of Harvard University. In recognition of Tan Sri Jeffrey’s continued commitment to Harvard, he was appointed, with a select group of benefactors, to Harvard’s Committee on University Resources (CoUR), to strengthen university resources through the unique power of philanthropy. Tan Sri Jeffrey is also a member of the President’s Associates, a cohort of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ dedicated partners.
In 2014, JCF established the Jeffrey Cheah Institute on Southeast Asia (JCI) to deepen its academic partnership with Harvard and other leading universities by conducting and promoting joint research and teaching on the economies, societies, politics and cultures of Southeast Asia. Officially launched in March 2014, the JCI is the first public policy think tank for Southeast Asia based in a Malaysian private university.
In November 2014, with another generous benefaction, Tan Sri Cheah, through JCF, fostered ties with Gonville & Caius College in the University of Cambridge (Caius) to establish, in perpetuity, the Jeffrey Cheah Professorial Fellowship Fund, which supports two University of Cambridge professors who are Fellows of Caius, and provides travel funds to enable them to visit Sunway on a regular basis. The first Jeffrey Cheah Professorial Fellows in Caius are Professor Kay-Tee Khaw CBE, FMedSci, Professor of Clinical Gerontology; and Professor John Todd FRS, Professor of Medical Genetics in the University of Cambridge.
In recognition of his support, Tan Sri Cheah was matriculated as a member of Caius, and admitted as a Gonville Fellow Benefactor of the College. His name has been inscribed on the Benefactors’ Wall at the Great Gate of Caius, which records the names of the greatest benefactors since its foundation by John Caius in 1348. He is the first Malaysian to have received this honour. In addition, he was admitted by Lord Sainsbury, Chancellor of the University of Cambridge as a Companion of the Guild of Cambridge Benefactors at a prestigious ceremony in the Senate House of the University in March 2016.
In December 2014, Tan Sri Cheah and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of Oxford, Professor Nicholas Rawlins on behalf of the University of Oxford, signed a Letter of Intent to embark on academic and cultural project collaborations, which included the 4th Oxford Southeast Asian Studies Symposium. Held in Sunway in March 2015, for the first time outside the University of Oxford, the Symposium was graced by the Sultan of Perak, HRH Sultan Dr Nazrin Shah.
In December 2015, Tan Sri Cheah and John Bowers QC, Principal of Brasenose College, University of Oxford, signed a landmark agreement in Oxford to support, in perpetuity, two Jeffrey Cheah Professorial Fellows, who are professors of the University of Oxford. Professor William James, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Finance and Planning) in the University and Fellow in Medicine in Brasenose; and Professor Mark Wilson, Fellow of Brasenose and Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Department of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Oxford, have been appointed as the first holders of the Jeffrey Cheah Professorial Fellowships at Brasenose. In addition, a Jeffrey Cheah Scholar-in-Residence programme has been established in Brasenose by which two Sunway academics or postgraduate students will, each year, be able to reside in Brasenose for a period of four weeks to undertake research and study in their field.
In recognition of his support for Brasenose and Oxford, Tan Sri Cheah was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of Brasenose in March 2016; and then, in September 2016, he was admitted by Lord Patten CH, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, to membership of the Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors at the historic Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.
In March 2016, a highly successful International Symposium on Precision Medicine, organized by Professors Todd (Cambridge), James (Oxford), and Sunway, was held at Sunway University. As a result of the Symposium, a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Cambridge and Sunway was signed by Tan Sri Jeffrey and Cambridge’s Regius Professor of Physic, Professor Patrick Maxwell, on 16 September 2016.
In April 2016, Tan Sri Cheah underlined his commitment to sustainable development when, through the JCF, he gifted USD 10 million to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Association led by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, a world-renowned economist and champion of sustainable development. The gift funded the establishment of the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development at Sunway University in December 2016, the first such center in Asia. The Center is set to become a regional hub for research and policy practice, creating world-class programmes to train a new generation of students, practitioners and policy leaders; and develop linkages with major Malaysian and international universities in joint problem-solving around the SDGs.
In October 2016, Tan Sri Cheah was admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of Education by Universiti Malaya, his first by a public university in Malaysia.
In 2016, he was invited by the Ministry of Education to serve on the Innovative Leadership Forum Series panel, and he will contribute ideas aimed at improving the quality of the education eco-system in Malaysia.
In recognition of Tan Sri Cheah’s enormous contributions to industry and the business world, he is the first Malaysian to receive the Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia Lifetime Achievement Luminary Award, and the Dayawati Modi Award for his outstanding contributions in the fields of philanthropy, education and promotion of arts and culture. Previous recipients include Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa.
In May 2016, Tan Sri Cheah was nominated as national council member to the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tan Sri Cheah will contribute towards intensifying domestic and international networks for research collaboration, strategic partnerships and business relationships that will benefit Malaysia in the long run particularly in Science, Technology and Innovation.
In 2017, Tan Sri Cheah spearheaded the signing of agreements between Sunway Group and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation with the University of Cambridge to establish the Sunway Clinical Research Centre, which will be a Regional Site Partner of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine. The Sunway Clinical Research Centre, led from Cambridge, will help develop an integrated approach to healthcare, clinical trials and research in Malaysia aimed at prevention, earlier diagnosis and improved treatments for a range of disease entities that are suited to the Asian genetic composition. The agreements will also establish a joint programme will also see researchers from the two countries working together across borders and disciplinary divides to tackle some of the world’s major health challenges and raise the standards of healthcare in Malaysia and Asia. In 2018, he was also conferred Malaysian Institute of Management’s (MIM) Court of Emeritus Fellow.
In 2019, Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah was appointed chairman of SDSN Malaysia chapter, which is part of a network of chapters under the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. The Jeffrey Sachs Center also serves as the host of SDSN Malaysia.