Sara Donnelly of CAIFU Magazine recently interviewed Angela Chao, Deputy Chairman of the Foremost Group. They focused on the strong philanthropic endeavors of the Chao family, especially the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao and James Si-Cheng Chao Family Fellowship Fund, which assists young students of Chinese heritage to access higher education.
Angela related that her parents survived challenging times, dealing with everything from famine to civil war, yet they understood that an education is portable — something to carry with them from place to place, and a strong foundation on which to build a stable and successful life. Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao impressed upon their children that they each have an obligation to reach their fullest potential, and a responsibility to make a contribution to the world.
The interview began with a discussion of what role education has played in Angela Chao’s life, and why she chose to attend Harvard.
As for Harvard, Angela said that it was not necessarily the only choice, but as one of the best educational institutions in the world, she was attracted by the breadth of learning opportunities and challenges she would find there.
Focus then shifted to the family’s philanthropy. Perhaps one of the most prominent gifts by the Chao family is the family’s donation in 2012 to the Harvard University. Part of the donation is being used to construct the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, named for Angela’s late mother, which will be at the center of the Harvard Business School campus. It will be an international center for learning and exchange of cultural and intellectual ideas. The gift was symbolically made 50 years after the first woman was admitted into Harvard, and went towards the first building on campus to bear the name of a Chinese-American and also the first building to be named after a woman. Angela Chao said that this initiative is tremendously important to her family, as well as to her
personally, as an alumna of both Harvard College and again of Harvard Business School. It is a fulfillment of her parents’ lifetime mission to raise the reputation and stature of the Chinese people in the eyes of the world, as well as to facilitate educational excellence. Angela also noted that for her father in particular, it is a very touching gift, as it so aptly exemplifies the core values of her mother and her vision of a globalized and technologically advanced world.
The Ruth Mulan Chu and James Si-Cheng Family Fellowship Fund sponsors 4-6 international students of Chinese descent each year, providing them with invaluable opportunities to achieve their fullest potential in the world. Angela shared that this was of particular importance to her parents. Her father relied completely on the generosity of others for his education in China, and, as Angela says, would have attended Harvard Business School himself, if it was not for lacking the financial means to do so. It became a mission of her parents’ to do what they could to ensure that access to high quality education would not be denied to a worthy student simply because they could not afford it.
The interview concluded with some thoughts on life skills and success. Chao said that she draws her inspiration and strength from her parents, who in spite of facing many obstacles always remained positive. Their example, she says, gives her the inspiration to find meaning in her own life and to live with integrity and sincerity.