Bio of Dr. James S.C. Chao, The Inaugural CAAPS Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

By Chinese American Academic and Professional Society (CAAPS)

Born in Shanghai, China, James S.C. Chao has dedicated his life to shipping, trading and finance beginning with his study of navigation in China. As a young cadet, he completed his college coursework in 1949 and by the mid-1950’s had advanced with remarkable rapidity through the ranks to become one of the youngest ocean-going marine masters up to that time.

Dr. Chao and his wife, the late Mrs. Ruth Mu-Lan Chu Chao

In 1958, he shattered all previous records by achieving the highest score ever on the national Master Mariner Examination. This honor singled him out for further government-sponsored studies in the United States. Not only was Dr. Chao honored as the first “Zhuang Yuan Chuan Zhang”(狀元船長), namely “Number One Captain,”he personified an important example to everyone, especially to young people, that in an era marked by war and strife, our futures can be forged through our own efforts and advancement, even in the most difficult of times.


In 1964, Dr. Chao founded Foremost Maritime Corporation, developed it to the current Foremost Group, and remains as Chairman to this day. Today, Foremost Group, its headquarters located in New York City, is a well-established, much respected international organization with activities in international shipping, trading and financing. The company enjoys a sterling reputation worldwide for professionalism and high ethical standards under Dr. Chao’s leadership. In May 2004, Dr. Chao became one of the very few to be inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame at the United Nations.Dr. Chao helped to develop and establish China’s shipbuilding industry’s advancement in science, technology, and capacity as early as the 1980’s. Currently, China is recognized as having surpassed Japan and Korea in the last few years as the world’s largest shipbuilding country in term of shipbuilding orders.




And, China is on course to achieve the prediction of becoming the world’s leading shipbuilder by 2015. The technology that goes into building the world’s largest bulk carriers for delivery to Foremost is a hallmark of China’s shipbuilding industry. Furthermore, the technologies promoted by Dr. Chao and used to construct the vessels utilize the latest environmentally friendly designs, making them part of the new “green transformation”in global commerce. Dr. Chao’s contribution to and promotion of these technologies not only accelerated China’s rise in the international shipbuilding market, but also will undoubtedly lead to a much “greener”more environmentally sensitive overall world fleet of ships in the years to come.

Active philanthropists and volunteers throughout their lives, Dr. Chao and his wife, the late Mrs. Ruth Mu-Lan Chu Chao, through their Shanghai Mu-lan Education Foundation and other charitable contributions, have awarded more than five thousand scholarships to students in the United States and China. A strong and dedicated champion of higher education, he has served as an adviser, adjunct professor,and member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees for decades. St. John’s bestowed upon Dr. Chao as early as in 1981 its much respected and prestigious Medal of Honor, the highest honor that the University can confer upon any alumnus, and Dr. Chao is now its Trustee Emeritus. Internationally and academically, in 1995 he has been named as Honorary Trustee of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and also Honorary President and Professor of Shanghai Maritime College. In 1998, the Dalian Maritime University conferred upon him its Honorary Professorship. He has been named as a special adviser for the Wuhan Municipal Government since 1998. Dr. Chao has served for more than a decade as Chairman of both the Chiao-Tung University Alumni Association in America and the Chiao-Tung University Alumni Foundation of America from 1988-1999. He has also served in various leadership roles in his church throughout his life.

Dr. Chao has also served as a Board Director for various multinational corporations. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his professional accomplishments and community service. Dr. Chao has also served as a Board Director for various multinational corporations.

He is the recipient of numerous awards for his professional accomplishments and community service. Among his many awards and honors, Dr. Chao is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Niagara University in 1992. In 2005, James and his daughter, the Honorable Elaine L. Chao, the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor, were the first father-daughter recipients to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor simultaneously. He also received the Sing Tao Daily Newspaper’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. In 2006, the Asian Pacific American community of Kentucky presented Ruth and James Chao with a Special Recognition Award for their Life Accomplishments. Dr. Chao was named among the Top 50 Asian American Business Persons of the Year in 2007. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognized him in February 2008 as an Outstanding American by Choice. In 2008, the New York Community Times awarded him the Outstanding Life Achievement Award, Nyack College conferred upon him the honorary Doctorate of Letters Degree and he received the Lifetime Legacy Award from the International Leadership Foundation. In 2009, he was selected and presented with the well-known, highly respected and prestigious nationwide Horatio Alger Award at the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2010 the Museum of Chinese in America honored Dr. Chao with the inaugural Outstanding Achievement Award for the Chao Family; the first time ever such an honor has been awarded in its 130 years. In April 2011, Shanghai Jiao Tong University awarded Dr. Chao“傑出校友思源貢獻金獎”the unique and highest award offered to its alumni.




A resident of Harrison, New York since 1974, Dr. Chao was married to the late Mrs. Ruth Mu-Lan Chu Chao. Together they have six children and six grandchildren. Dr. Chao says of his marriage, “Ruth and I were married for 57 years before she returned to the Lord on August 2, 2007. My wife is the love of my life and soul mate. Together we had an extraordinary life. Because Ruth devoted her life to providing scholarship assistance to promising and deserving youths, and dedicated herself to supporting and promoting excellence and the highest level of professionalism in education, she embodied the spirit of this association, and I accept this Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in her honor.”

Dr. Chao is one of the original supporters to establish CAAPS. He was invited to give a speech at the first Convention in 1976. Dr. Chao’s speech is shown in the following two photographs which witness the history and Dr. Chao’s tie to CAAPS as well as CAAPS’s appeal to both intellectuals and the general public from the beginning.

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