First Building Named after a Woman on Harvard Campus Tops Off Today

Boston, April 24, 2015, — Exactly a year after the groundbreaking of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center in the campus of Harvard Business School(HBS), the top-off ceremony will be held today at HBS. Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, an alumna of HBS, is expected to be at the ceremony.
Elaine Chao(middle) with her parents and sisters on the first night when they arrived in the U.S.(file photo).

This new building is named after Secretary Chao’s mother, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan in 1961. Its the first building named after a woman and Chinese American on Harvard Campus. The 90,000 Sq. foot building is expected to open in June 2016. The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center at HBS will focus on executive business training and education for executives and business leaders from around the world.

Harvard Business School Breaks Ground For New Executive Education Center

Boston, April 24, 2014, — Harvard Business School (HBS) broke ground today on its campus in Boston for the construction of a new Executive Education facility—the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center. The ceremony included remarks by Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao (MBA 1979), former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), and the Honorable Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States.

The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, a 90,000-square-foot, four-story structure that will contain meeting rooms, office and dining facilities as well as classrooms, is the result of a $40 million gift from a Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation. This generous 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 is fitting that this campus will have a building bearing the name of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao,” noted Harvard President Drew Faust. “What happens inside this building—the exchange of ideas, the transfer of knowledge, the broadening of minds—will be a living tribute to those things she and her husband held so dear and passed on to their daughters.”

Chao family patriarch Dr. James S. C. Chao said, “Our family is so pleased to be here on the auspicious occasion of the groundbreaking of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center. We are grateful to America for welcoming us and giving our family so many opportunities. We are grateful to the culture of our ancestral land, China, because its emphasis on education and family provided Ruth and me with such a strong foundation.” He added, “We believe this Center will embody Ruth’s spirit and become a dynamic meeting place for members of the University community from all over the world, which will enable them to better understand one another to build a better world.”

(LtoR): Dean Nitin Nohria, President Drew Faust, Dr. James S. C. Chao, The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, and Angela Chao
Photo: Susan Young

Dr. James S. C. Chao and Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao’s family is the only family in HBS history to have had four daughters attend the School: The Honorable Elaine Chao; May Chao; Grace Chao; Angela Chao. This gift was made on April 12, 2012 during the 50th anniversary celebration of the admission of women to Harvard’s two-year MBA program and the 375th anniversary of Harvard University. It will be the first building named after a woman on the Harvard campus and the first building named after an American of Chinese descent. As part of the gift, the Chao family has also endowed the Ruth Mulan Chu and James S. C. Chao Family Fellowship Fund to outstanding students in need.

Angela Chao, the youngest of the Chao daughters said, “My mother was a great advocate of education and my family hopes her spirit of love, service, and philanthropy will inspire everyone who enters this Center.” The Honorable Elaine Chao added: “My mother believed in the transformational power of education. In an increasingly global and interconnected world, we hope this Center will help cultivate a new generation of outstanding leaders whose familiarity and understanding of the international environment will help create a better and more peaceful future for everyone.”

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, who has made internationalization a top priority, believes that the Chao Center will symbolize the school’s growing emphasis on the international arena. “If the 20th century was the American century for business, the 21st century is decidedly a global century, and Harvard Business School must be the place where the world’s best thinking about business and management practice takes place,” he said. “The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center will be the gateway to our campus for generations of executives from all over the world and we are deeply grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the Chao family in making this a reality”.

(LtoR): Christine Chao, May Chao, Dean Nitin Nohria, Dr. James S. C. Chao, The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Angela Chao, and Grace Chao
Photo: Susan Young

The new building is being designed by architectural firm Goody-Clancy and will be located on the site of the current Kresge Building. When completed in 2016, the building will serve as the gateway to Harvard Business School for the more than 10,000 executives from around the world who attend programs on campus each year. It will also be a vibrant hub that enables Executive Education participants to meet with one another, with faculty, guests and with students from the School’s MBA and Doctoral programs.

Background on Dr. James S. C. Chao and Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Family:
The Chao family is the quintessential American success story. Dr. James S. C. Chao and Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao saw their ancestral home torn apart by civil war, foreign invasion, and domestic upheaval yet they maintained their optimism and hope. Accomplished at a very young age, Dr. Chao became one of the youngest sea captains of his time at the age of 29 and earned the top score in the national examinations breaking all previous records. This achievement gave him the opportunity to study in America. At that time, Mrs. Chao was seven months pregnant with their third child but she supported his bold decision to build a better life for the family. The family was reunited three years later and Dr. Chao founded what is now the Foremost Group, an international shipping company in New York. A scholar of Asian history and literature and generous philanthropist, who left her mark on all who knew her, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao was the mother of six daughters who went on to successful careers after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees from some of America’s finest universities.