KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s prominent historian, Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Khoo Kay Kim passed away today following a brief illness.
He was 82.
This was confirmed by the family in a short message.
“It is with the deepest sadness that we inform the passing of our much loved husband and father Professor Tan Sri Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim following a brief illness.
“He passed, as he had always lived, with the greatest dignity. We appreciate your prayers at this sad time. May he ever rest in peace.”
He leaves behind wife, Puan Sri Rathi Khoo and three children, Eddin, Rubin and Mavin Khoo.
Khoo was one of the instrumental figures in the formulating the Rukun Negara to foster national cohesion following the aftermath of the 1969 riots.
He pursued his undergraduate degree in University of Malaya, Singapore, in 1959, and subsequently obtained a master in history from the Faculty of Arts, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in 1967 and in 1974; he became the first Malaysian to obtain a PhD for his thesis titled The Beginnings of Political Extremism in Malaya 1915-1935.
He was appointed as a lecturer in University of Malaya in 1967 after two years of tutorship and gained his professorship and appointment as the Chair of Malaysian History from 1974 up to his retirement in 1992.
He was also the first lecturer outside of Malay Studies to conduct lectures in the national language.
He served more than 50 years in University of Malaya and throughout his tenure there, he taught many current leaders of the country.
For his outstanding service, Khoo was honoured with the “Emeritus Professor” title by University of Malaya in 2001.
In April 2017, he published his autobiography titled 'I, KKK - The Autobiography of a Historian‘ where he shared his earliest memories growing up in pre-independence Malaya, all through his journey to becoming a beloved teacher among many of Malaysia's prominent figures.
He said that the book was dedicated to Malaysians for them to have insights about the country, particularly the youths.
“I want young people to know and be proud of Malaysia. Many foreigners praised Malaysia and it is something that many people don't know, Malaya is a rich country in the whole of the British empire before World War Two,” he said.
He also won the prestigious 2018 Merdeka Award for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement for his contribution to the scholarly research, development of reinterpretation of Malaysian history and lifetime dedication in history education in the country that has shaped post-independence study of history in modern Malaysia.