There was a job to be done at Curtin, Dr Tan declared.
Now he was at the crease, succeeding the late Harry Perkins, he wanted to hold up his end and allow vice-chancellor Lance Twomey to continue on his run spree.
Mr Perkins and Professor Twomey were a winning team, Dr Tan said, but the former Oxford University chancellor Roy Jenkins’ description of his position as "impotence assuaged with grandeur", nonetheless presented a frightening prospect.
For Mr Perkins, "what was important was the result of one’s effort and the satisfaction of being able to hold one’s head high at the end of the term.
"This is exactly my attitude, too," Dr Tan announced.
He intended to put aside the glamour associated with the role, and to concentrate on the responsibility of the chancellorship.
He wanted the 40,000 directly involved with the university, including all the unsung heroes, to be regarded as part of a large family.
"As the university grows in size we have to guard against it being impersonal.
"This is fundamental to fulfilling our vision of becoming a world class university."
As an overseas student in the 1960s, Dr Tan was awarded the Australian Medical Association gold medal for being the top medical graduate for his year.
Later, he founded the WA Endosurgical Society and was a governor of the Laparoscopic and Endoscopic Surgeons of Asia Society.
He became an Australian citizen, and was appointed to numerous boards and committees, including those of the CSIRO, SBS, and the Australian Press Council.
He was a member of the Australia-China council for five years, helped establish Chinese and Indonesian sister state relationships, the WA Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Project Employ Youth, and the Oz Concert.
Dr Tan established the Positive Ageing Foundation and is president of the National Committee of Human Rights Education in Australia.
In 1993, Dr Tan received a WA Citizen of the Year Award for community service.