Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center

Students study and eat inside Chao Center
Main outside entrance of the Chao Center with a banner on a lamp post in the foreground that says Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, Enhancing Learning and Community
People walk down the stairs inside Chao Center with a view of the building interior
Dr. Chao, daughters and their families with Harvard University President Drew Faust and HBS Dean Nitin Nohria posing for a group photo inside Chao Center

Dr. Chao, daughters and their families with Harvard University President Drew Faust and Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria

Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center was made possible through the support of a Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and family foundation and is a tribute to the life and legacy of the family matriarch, the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao.

The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center was dedicated and celebrated on June 6, 2016 (See letters of congratulations from five U.S. presidents (pdf)). This HBS Executive Education facility serves both as the gateway to the School for the more than 10,000 executives who attend classes here each year and as a vibrant hub that enables them to convene with each other, with faculty, and with students from the MBA and doctoral programs. The Boston architectural firm of Goody Clancy designed the building, which was built on the site where Kresge Hall once stood.

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About the Name

An extraordinary gift to Harvard University and HBS from a Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and family foundation is funding both the new Executive Education facility and financial assistance for deserving MBA students from China, or whose families are from China. The gift is a tribute to the life and legacy of the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, beloved matriarch of this prominent and accomplished Chinese-American family with significant Harvard ties. The Chao Family—the only family 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.

James S.C. Chao is an industrialist whose philanthropic interests—which he shared with his wife, a scholar in Asian history and literature—are focused on education and US-China cultural exchanges. 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 HBS: Elaine Chao, Mt. Holyoke College and HBS; Jeanette Chao, Smith College and College of William & Mary, MBA; May Chao Wellesley College and HBS; Christine Chao, Colgate University and Columbia Law School, JD; Grace Chao, Wellesley College, HBS, Ph.D. Columbia University; and Angela Chao, Harvard College and HBS.

Speaking about his wife at the time of the gift, Dr. Chao noted, “I am eternally grateful for the unconditional love, trust, and confidence Ruth 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 US-China cultural exchanges, she embodied the spirit of the love of learning in this university community.”

Also at the time of the gift, the Honorable Elaine L. Chao (MBA 1979), US Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009, subsequently US Secretary of Transportation 2017-2021, and the first Asian-American woman ever appointed to a president’s cabinet in American history, said that her mother “was a positive, optimistic person who believed in the transformational power of education regardless of gender in developing leaders for the world. Angela Chao (Harvard AB 1995, MBA 2001), the youngest daughter of the Chao family, stated, “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.”

May Chao (MBA 1985) added: “As a strong advocate of women, this gift genuinely reflects my Mother's kind, altruistic and loving spirit as well as her dedication and passion for learning and higher education.”

Accepting the gift on behalf of the University, Harvard President Drew Faust thanked the family for their deep commitment “to making Harvard more accessible to more people and to building a welcoming environment for generations of business leaders from around the world.” HBS Dean Nitin Nohria said, “The Chao family is the embodiment of the American dream, and we are humbled by their generosity.”

Chao Family Foundations

Dr. Chao and daughters with HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and dignitaries including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Charlie Baker, and Sen. Ed Markey at ribbon-cutting celebration in front of Chao Center

Dr. Chao and daughters with dignitaries at dedication celebration

Dr. Chao and daughters with Harvard University President Drew Faust, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino group photo next to portrait of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao at gift announcement

Dr. Chao and daughters with Harvard University President Drew Faust, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, and former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at gift announcement

Chao Family History & Archive

Four banners with image and title for the Chao Family History & Archive on crimson background: Wife & Mother: Ruth Mulan Chu Chao; A Loving Couple: The Story of James & Ruth; The Chao Family: Bridging East & West; Principles to Live By: Values in Action