Reputed to be the hardest smasher in badminton, he won the All-England men's doubles title partnering Dato’ Ng Boon Bee (his schoolmate) in 1965 and 1966, Dato’ Tan Yee Khan still speaks fondly of his alma mater, St Michael’s Institution (SMI) Ipoh.
“This is the school which gave me the opportunity to excel in the game I love. The teachers and principal saw the potential in me and they encouraged me to take up badminton,” said Tan at the school speech day recently in front of some 200 teachers and students.
Tan, a six footer, was accorded a warm welcome by members of the school’s lion dance troupe, kompang and bunga manggar when he arrived at the school grounds. Present was the school principal during his time – Brother Director Pius Kelly who never failed to inspire him to take up the sport. Brother Pius was Brother Director from 1955 to 1960.
“He was the pillar of support and strength during my days at SMI. I went on to win many state-level titles in school and after I left school. He shaped and influenced me strongly in my early years,” said Tan, adding that he had to sacrifice schooling when he was selected to be part of the badminton squad.
In 1958, he left SMI and became the first schoolboy to be selected for the Thomas Cup squad and trained in Penang with Datuk Eddy Choong, the former All-England champion.
“In those days, I was only given RM50 as allowance”, recalled Tan, who also captured the Malaysian Open Amateur Golf title after he retired from badminton in 1970. He was selected for the Malaysian Putra Cup team in 1971.
Principal Chan Nyook Ying said the school emphasised on students’ individual development as well as character building by acknowledging their unique personal strengths. In doing so, she said, we bring out the best in students’ potential to achieve success.
“We cannot deny the important role that co-curricular activities play in enhancing academic performance and in developing well-rounded individuals,” she said.
Also present were Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian, Chairman of SMI Board of Governors cum CEO of Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad and Joseph Michael Lee, Chairman of SMI Parent-Teacher Association.