BOSTON— Harvard University and Harvard Business School have received a $40 million gift from a Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation. The gift was given in tribute to the life and legacy of the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, beloved matriarch of this most prominent and accomplished Chinese-American family. It will support both students in the Master in Business Administration (MBA) program and participants in the School’s Executive Education programs. The Chao family — the only one in the School's history to have had four daughters attend — poignantly made their gift during the 50th anniversary celebration of women in Harvard’s full–time MBA program and the 375th anniversary of Harvard University.
“Ruth and I had an extraordinary life for 60 years before she returned to the Lord,” Dr. James S. C. Chao said. “I am eternally grateful for the unconditional love, trust and confidence she showed in me throughout our life and for always supporting and encouraging me in all our endeavors. Because Ruth devoted her life to promoting excellence in education and enhancing U.S.-China cultural exchanges, she embodied the spirit of the love of learning in this university community. I would like to dedicate this contribution to memorialize and honor my beloved wife and soul mate, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao.”
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao (HBS MBA ’79), U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009 and the first Asian-American woman ever appointed to the President's cabinet in American history, noted: “My mother was an incredibly inspiring person. She was a positive, optimistic person who believed in the transformational power of education regardless of gender in developing leaders for the world. Throughout our formative years, she always emphasized our responsibility to contribute to society and being kind and generous to others.”
“My family and Harvard Business School have had a remarkable relationship spanning four decades," said Angela Chao, the youngest daughter of the Chao family (Harvard AB ’95 and HBS MBA ’01). “We are so pleased to be able to further the School's work of educating leaders who make a difference in the world while at the same time honoring our mother - the woman who inspired us with her selflessness and courage.”
The gift will be used in two distinct ways. Five million dollars is designated to establish the Ruth Mulan Chu and James Si-Cheng Chao Family Fellowship Fund, which will provide financial assistance to deserving students. The remaining $35 million will support the construction of a new Executive Education facility - The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center – that will serve both as the gateway to Harvard Business School for the more than 10,000 executives who will attend classes there each year and as a vibrant hub that will enable them to convene with each other, with faculty and with students from the MBA and Doctoral programs. The architectural firm of Goody Clancy will design the new building, which will stand on the site where Kresge Hall now stands. The School plans to break ground for the new building in 2014.
“The Chao family's generous gift reflects their faith in the enduring value of higher education and their lasting confidence in the University,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “They are deeply committed to making Harvard more accessible to more people and to building a welcoming environment for generations of business leaders from around the world.”
“The Chao family is the embodiment of the American dream, and we are humbled by their generosity,” said Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria. “The new center will be the gateway to Executive Education at the School, and where we welcome the more than 10,000 managers and leaders who come to HBS each year from around the world. What is also very special about this gift is the story of the Chao family. To come to this country, and to rebuild their lives and achieve so much, speaks volumes about Dr. and Mrs. Chao’s courage and fortitude. Giving back in the way they have through public service and philanthropy speaks in equal measure to their individual and family values.”
About Dr. and Mrs. James S. C. Chao & Family:
James S.C. Chao is an industrialist who, with his late wife, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, a scholar in Asian history and literature, are philanthropists whose charitable giving has focused on education and U.S.-China cultural exchanges. Starting with the family and the home, all six of Dr. and Mrs. Chao's daughters received undergraduate and graduate degrees from prestigious American universities, including four who attended the MBA program at Harvard Business School (HBS): Elaine Chao: Mt. Holyoke College and HBS; Jeanette Chao: Smith College. MBA from College of William and Mary; May Chao: Wellesley College and HBS; Christine Chao: Colgate University and JD from Columbia Law School; Grace Chao: Wellesley College and HBS, currently Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Columbia University; Angela Chao: Harvard College and HBS.
Brian C. Kenny