S. R. Nathan was 'yesterday's man' a few weeks ago. 'I am humbled and moved by this honour,' Mr Nathan told about 500 people gathered outside the nomination centre yesterday. 'I thought I was a yesterday's man.' Mr Nathan, who spent 50 years in public service, training in social work at the University of Malaya, started out his working life as an odd-job boy in Johore after graduating with a diploma. After the Japanese occupation, he was a seaman's welfare officer before beginning his civil service career. For much of the 1970s, he worked in the Defence Ministry's low-profile Security and Intelligence Division. Some of his past missions include mediating during the 1974 hijacking of a ship by four terrorists linked to the Japanese Red Army, while he also held top posts in the foreign and home affairs ministries, in between short spells in the private sector. When his long-time mentor, then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, asked him to become executive chairman of the Straits Times group in 1982, he was greeted with suspicion by journalists wearing black bands. More recently, he was an ambassador to Malaysia and the United States and, since returning to Singapore in 1996, he has been director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies and ambassador-at-large.