Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon

Chairman Board of Governors, Wawasan Open University / former Chief Minister of Penang


Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon is the former Chief Minister of Penang state (1990-2008) and the former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia (2009-2013). He is presently the Chairman of Wawasan Education Foundation (WEF) and the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Wawasan Open University (WOU) headquartered in Penang, Malaysia.
Born in 1949 in Penang, he received his primary and secondary education in Penang, obtained his BA (Physics) from Princeton University, MA and PhD (Comparative Education) from the University of Chicago, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University. He started his career in 1975 as a lecturer in the School of Educational Studies at University of Science, Malaysia (USM), Penang and was appointed Deputy Dean in 1978.

In 1982, Dr Koh left academia, contested and won a parliamentary seat, representing Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) in the then ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional. In and outside Parliament, he was active in issues relating to the economy, education, environment and ethics of governance. He started as Gerakan’s first National Youth Chairman (1983), was elected a Vice-President and the Deputy President (1990-2007), then the President (2007-2013). At the state-level, he was the Penang Barisan Nasional Chairman (1990-2012).
In 1986, he was appointed Political Secretary to the second Chief Minister of Penang, Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. In 1990, he was elected as a Member of the Penang State Legislative Assembly and succeeded Dr Lim as the third Chief Minister of Penang since Independence. He was then re-elected and served for another three (3) more terms until 2008.

During his 18-year tenure as the Chief Minister, he drove Penang’s industrial transformation towards high-tech and high value-add products, with emphasis on research, development and design, while promoting new product areas such as automation, medical devices, bio-pharmacy, etc. He pursued George Town’s listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with Melaka, which was inscribed in 2008. He promoted education and skills training, culture and sports, youth and women’s development and caring society in Penang, besides enhancing Penang’s infrastructure and environment, providing more affordable housing and socio-civic amenities for the people. For his achievements, he was conferred the title of “Tan Sri” by the Yang DiPertuan Agong.

In April 2009, he was appointed as a Senator and a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (PMD) in charge of national unity and performance management. Serving until May 2013, he initiated and chaired the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) in the PMD, driving Malaysia’s Government Transformation Programme (GTP) to address key areas of concern for the people by focusing on performance management. He also expanded national unity programmes and addressed various inter-ethnic and inter-religious issues in Malaysia, based on the principle and practice of moderation and inclusiveness.

Retired from government and politics since 2013, Dr Koh is presently active in the areas of education, heritage conservation, international relations and cross-cultural understanding.