Tahir Majid with yours truly, then still a small pup (circa late 1968)
Allahyarham Prof. Sr. Hj. Mohamad Tahir Bin Hj. Abdul Majid (FISM, FRICS, FCIOB, FCICM, AAACE) would have been eighty years old today, had he not succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver after a long and painful illness almost seventeen years ago. The Dean of Academic Affairs and a long serving Deputy Director of MARA Institute of Technology (ITM), he was one if not the earliest Malay chartered surveyor in Federation of Malaya.
When ITM was incepted in 1966 after the birth of MARA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Rural Development Tun Abdul Razak Hussein personally asked Tahir to set up the Architecture School, ITM. Then a practicing chartered surveyor, he summarily quit his lucrative job to accept the challenge which he had to start from scratch. ITM was then designed to give second tier Malay school leavers, mainly from the rural and under developed Malaysia an opportunity to have a stint of tertiary education at the times where the was only one university (University Malaya) and not much opportunities to be enrolled for good schools which offered sixth form, which are in the urban areas.
His indirect contribution to the Malay Agenda, realising in force the full potential of the rural and under privileged Malay students in the pre and infant times of the New Economic Policy (NEP) is immense. and unsurpassed He started as the founder of the Architecture School and then worked tirelessly to make sure the unknown ITM’s qualifications were recognised in the late sixties, at the times when JPA did not recognise the polytechnical college for government positions and so does Universiti Malaya. Tahir then the Dean of Academic Affairs, he took it to task to ‘market’ ITM graduates into direct entries for degree programs at universities in the United Kingdom and United States. Later as the Deputy Director, he worked further to develop and offer first ‘twinning’ programs such as BBA from Ohio University. ITM was one of local institution which offered high value courses such as ACCA, CIMA (then ICMA), ICSA and CIOB. Tahir himself then was a fellow Institute of Surveyors Malaysia, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyor, Institute of Chartered Builder and Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
Results came almost instantly. ITM graduates became a ‘prize’ for either the job market or institution of higher learning, mainly in the UK, US and Australia. From the early seventies, ITM was seen as tool for the realisation of NEP (eradication of poverty and alleviation of the socio-economic standing from development programs such as education, which include tertiary). As the COO, Tahir was instrumental in expanding the Shah Alam main campus in size and courses and developing branch campuses all over the nation, in the shortest time possible. Being a chartered surveyor and builder, he personally took active role in overseeing these projects.
Many of successful ‘Towering Malays’ today were nurtured under his watch (1966-1984). Names like Dato’ Seri Mohd. Salleh Sulong (former CEO DRB Hicom), Dato’ Mohd. Salleh Abd. Majid, (former President KLSE), Dato’ Khalid Ahmad (former CEO MRCB), Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Ibrahim Abu Shah (former Vice Chancellor UiTM), Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ir. Shahol Hamid Abu Bakar (current Vice Chancellor, UiTM), Dato’ Zaid Ibrahim (former Chairman Zaid Ibrahim & Co), Dato’ Noripah Kamso (CEO CIMB Wealth Advisors), Datuk Ahirudin “Rocky” Attan (CEO and Editor of Malay Mail), Nuraina A. Samad (Managing Editor of NST), YB Dato’ Ibrahim Ali (MP for Pasir Mas),and YB Dato’ Ir. Mohamad Zain Mohamad (former Minister of Works).
He was also Institute of Surveyor Malaysia President. He promoted the progression of the profession regardless of ethnic background. For a brief period before Prof. Dr. Nik Rashid Nik Ismail of UM assumed his new posting, he was the Acting Director of ITM (now the position has been alleviated to Vice Chancellor). He obediently served as deputy to ITM Directors Tan Sri Arshad Ayub, Dato’ Lokman Musa, Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Awang Had Salleh and Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Rashid Nik Ismail.
Upon retirement an illustrious technical training and institute of higher learning, his immense wealth of experience, exposure, skills and knowledge was still valued, not only within Malaysia but regionally. Not only he served ‘Malay’ institution like assuming the post of Visiting Professor of Quantity Surveyor at UTM, he also served Non Malay institutions. He was a willing and proud external examiner for the School of Building Tunku Abdul Rahman College where his name lent credence to the qualifications awarded, mainly to the Chinese youths.
He later served in advisory role and capacity in the YTL Group of Companies, where in the late eighties and early nineties were in high gear with landmark construction projects.
In his last weeks of his life (then wheel chair bound), then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghaffar Baba honoured the supremo of the architecture, building and quantity survey professions amongst the Malays by announcing that the School of Architecture, Planning and Survey ITM be renamed as ‘Kompleks Tahir Majid’. He was the second person whose name to be honoured for a building within ITM, after the library was named ‘Perpustakaan Tun Abdul Razak’.
His legacy lives on. He worked tirelessly for the benefit of the rakyat and the fruits of his labour is par excellence. By today’s convention, Tahir Majid upheld the 1 Malaysia struggle of, ‘Rakyat didahulukan, pencapaian diutamakan‘.
May Allah s.w.t. bless his soul.