Giving Back to Harvard University
In 2012, Harvard University and Harvard Business School announced an important gift from a James Si-Cheng Chao family Foundation. The Chao family holds the record for having the most daughters from a single family (four, in total) to attend Harvard Business School. While some of the gift was given to support student fellowships, it is primarily being used to fund the building of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, a new executive education center named in honor of the family’s late matriarch.
The Center’s Namesake
The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center is named for and a tribute to the life of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao. Born in 1930s China, she demonstrated resolve and courage throughout her life. After her husband James immigrated to the United States in 1958, Ruth followed with their children in 1961. At the age of 53, Ruth earned a Masters in Asian Literature and History. Before passing away in 2007, Ruth, together with her husband, established a number of philanthropic foundations that have allowed for the funding of thousands of student scholarships. Ruth once said that education was the best dowry she could give her daughters.
Growing up, Mrs. Chao came from a family that supported higher education for females during a time when it was quite rare. Mrs. Chao carried on that tradition and continued to instill the principals of education, vision and equality in her husband, Dr. James S.C. Chao, and their six daughters. Her philanthropy aligned with her values and primarily focused on making higher education more accessible to others. Harvard Business School has memorialized the story of Mrs. Chao’s life, further illustrating that giving to others was always a part of her nature.
In October 2012, the Chao family announced the gift that would go towards the building of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, which would be a new executive education and mba center at Harvard Business School. The initial press conference was held that same month in Kresge Hall, the building that would be razed to make way for the new Center.
In attendance were several members of the Chao family, including Ruth’s eldest daughter, the Honorable Elaine L. Chao, as well as her youngest daughter, Angela Chao. The latter has spoken about the four-decade relationship between the Chao family and Harvard Business School. She expressed how grateful the Chao family is to have the opportunity to help continue the school’s mission of educating leaders, while at the same time honoring their mother.
Harvard’s President, Drew Faust, said that the Foundation’s gift would remind people of the important role women have played in the history of Harvard Business School. The gift was given during the 50th anniversary of the year that Harvard began accepting women into its MBA program.
Designed by the architectural firm Goody-Clancy, the four-story tall facility at the center of the Harvard Business School campus will contain meeting rooms, classrooms, as well as office and dining facilities.
Ground-breaking took place in April 2014. Everything from the interior, to how the building will blend in with the Georgian-style buildings that neighbor it on the campus, were laid out and planned with careful attention to detail.
Each year the school holds Executive Education programs. The Chao Center will be a place where MBA, executive education and doctoral students can interact with the thousands of professionals who come from around the world to attend these programs, thereby making it a gateway. The students will have the opportunity to mingle with the very professionals that they strive to one day become. In addition, the Center will help to boost Boston’s economy and growth.