The Foremost Foundation was established through the generosity of Foremost Group, founded by Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and his wife, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao. Dr. Chao remains as Chairman of Foremost Group to this day. His daughter, Angela Chao, serves as Deputy Chairman.
Foremost Group was first established in 1964 in New York as an international shipping and trading company. It manages a modern fleet of state-of-the art, environmentally friendly dry bulk carriers. Comprising over two million deadweight total fleet tonnage, the vessels include panamaxes, capesizes and Newcastlemaxes and is one of the largest and most well-respected private dry bulk fleets in the United States.
Born in Shanghai, Dr. James S.C. Chao is an industrialist who has dedicated his life to family, philanthropy, shipping, and financing. Mrs. Chao was born in Anhui province and had established several charitable foundations with her husband that help young people in Asia and America access higher education and greater opportunities. Dr. and Mrs. Chao’s early lives were marked by societal upheaval, economic hardships, civil war, and foreign invasion, like many Chinese of the 20th century. As a direct result of their experiences, Dr. and Mrs. Chao have always strongly believed in supporting bright, outstanding young people in accessing higher education to fulfill their potential.
An immigrant to America in 1958, it took Dr. Chao three years before he was able to bring Mrs. Chao and their three young daughters to the United States. Reunited in America, Dr. and Mrs. Chao raised six daughters who all received undergraduate and graduate degrees from prestigious American universities as follows: Elaine: A.B., Mt. Holyoke College, Harvard Business School; Jeanette: A.B. Smith College, MBA, College of William and Mary; A.B, Wellesley College, Harvard Business School; Christine: B.A., Colgate University, JD, Columbia Law School; Grace: A.B. Wellesley College, Harvard Business School; Ph.D candidate, Columbia University; Angela: A.B., Harvard College, Harvard Business School.
Mrs. Chao returned to the Lord on August 2, 2007 after a courageous seven-year battle with lymphoma. Among the tributes to her inspiring spirit, altruism, and ever present sense of optimism are the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Building at Shanghai Jiao Tong University; the Mulan Maritime Simulation Memorial Center at Shanghai Maritime University; and the Ridgeway Christian Education Center in New York.
Dr. and Mrs. Chao's lives spanned two worlds – East and West – and both played pivotal roles in building bridges of understanding between them. Each of their daughters proudly continues in this tradition today.