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In memory of the late Lim Kok Wing, we take a look back at his life's achievements as an entrepreneur, educator, and creative.

Published 2021-06-01 18:41:33
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Lim Kok Wing (Lim), founder and president of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology has passed away at age 75.

A statement was published by the university about his passing, but no further details were provided. Prior to this, it was reported that Lim was in a stable condition after being in a hospitalised due to a fall.

In light of Lim’s passing, we’d like to offer our condolences to his loved ones and also celebrate his achievements throughout his life as a creative, entrepreneur, artist, and educator.

1. An educator and entrepreneur since young

He was once requested by his school to be a replacement for his art teacher who was absent. (How many of us can say we’ve been asked to do this?) Having this early exposure to teaching students led Lim to start a small business tutoring his classmates. 

2. Illustrated the first serialised comic strip for Malaysia and Singapore

Image Credit: Lim Kok Wing

Lim’s first foray into the working world as an adult was as an illustrator where he’d design covers for books. Eventually, he approached the Eastern Sun newspaper with comic strips he’d worked on, with hopes of serialising them.

When the publication agreed, Lim’s comic strip, ABU became Malaysia and Singapore’s first local serialised comic strip for 2 years, until the newspaper brand closed down.

3. Set up Malaysia’s first local advertising agency

Shortly after leaving his comic illustration job, Lim joined McCann-Erickson, a multinational advertising agency in 1970. He quickly became the regional creative director throughout the years.

By 1975, Lim, aged 29, started Malaysia’s first local advertising agency, Wings Creative Consultants (Wings) with a team of just 4. Together, they would make their place in an industry that was still controlled by multinationals and expatriates at the time.

Within 3 years of launching, Wings became one of the top 10 leading agencies in the country.

4. Helped Mandela with South Africa’s first democratic election

Image Credit: Limkokwing University

In 1994, when South Africa was holding its first ever democratic election, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had recommended to Mandela to hire Lim for the massive exercise. This was because out of 20 million eligible voters, 9 million were illiterate.

Lim came up with the election poster of Mandela surrounded by smiling children of various backgrounds, including whites, with only 5 words on it, “A Better Life For All”.

For his help in the African National Congress’ win, he received South Africa’s highest national honour, the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in recognition of his contribution to ending apartheid.

5. Coined some of the country’s most memorable slogans

Image Credit: Lim Kok Wing

The creative was also the one who coined and ran Putrajaya’s “Tak Nak” anti-smoking campaign and promoted the “Rakan Muda” and “One Heart, One Nation” programmes. 

Lim was behind Dr Mahathir’s Vision 2020 campaign, conceptualising the “Malaysia Boleh” mantra too.

6. Joined hands with BBDO to drive sales

13 years after the founding of Wings, BBDO, a well known global advertising agency approached Wings to partner them in 1988. Billings from Wings/BBDO reached RM26 million (US$8.6 million) in 1989, and by 1992, sales rose to nearly RM40 million (US$13.3 million).

The partnership ended in 1992, as Lim at this time was also shifting focus to set up his creative university.

7. Shifted focus to foster young minds

Image Credit: Limkokwing University

Lim always had the vision to educate young talent in an environment filled with creativity and innovation. Thus, he launched the Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology (LUCT) in 1991, before it became a private university in 2000. 

In 2002, LUCT was the first private college in Malaysia to be recognised as a university-college, then becoming a full-fledged university by 2007.

Today, with its main campus in Malaysia, the university has 11 other campuses in Botswana, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lesotho, Swaziland and the UK. It offers courses in creative, technology, and business fields including animation, architecture, entrepreneurship, fashion design, mobile computing, amongst others.

8. Brought his vision to Africa too

Thanks to his ties from helping out Mandela, it gave him the opportunity to establish universities in Africa, starting with Botswana in 2007.

When Lim wanted to open up a campus in Sierra Leone, the country was hit by Ebola in 2014. Hence, the launch of the campus was delayed while the institution assisted the country’s government in eradicating the virus.

The Sierra Leone campus eventually opened in 2017 after the country was declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organisation on March 17, 2016.

9. Was an author with 4 books

Image Credit: Limkokwing University

Lim has published a total of 4 books under his name, showcasing his range in illustration through comic strips, along with political and social commentary. 

They are, Guli-guli: Pearls of Wisdom; Pearls of Laughter (1983), Hidden Agenda (1998), Innovation Enabling Transformation, and Najib: Nation on His Mind, People in His Heart (2012).

10. Made it to Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy list

At age 62, Lim was named as 1 of the 4 Malaysians to make it onto Forbes Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy list in 2009. This was in recognition of his contributions and fundraising in fighting AIDS and apartheid in South Africa.

He also provided scholarships, disabled student services, and gave RM80,000 to the “Plight of Palestinians: From Grim to Bleak” fund in 2008.

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Lim Kok Wing was a man recognised for many achievements, but he wasn’t without controversy, whether it involved himself or his institutions. Regardless, the fact that he has contributed to certain impactful movements cannot be refuted.

Editor’s Note: Parts of this article have been edited to reflect greater accuracy of statements.

  • You can learn more about Lim Kok Wing here.
  • You can read about more Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: The Star / Wikimedia

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