Groundbreaking held for Harvard biz center named for a Chinese American

Updated: 2014-04-25 11:51

By Zhang Fan in New York (China Daily USA)

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The first education facility at Harvard University named after a Chinese American is a vivid example of Chinese-American's contributions to the development of United State's society, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai said at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday for the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center.

The late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao was the wife of James Si-Cheng Chao, and the mother of Elaine Chao, the 24th US secretary of labor, who, under former president George W. Bush, was the first American woman of Asian descent appointed to a president's cabinet.

The James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation donated $40 million to Harvard in 2012 to build the center. It includes a $5 million fellowship for students of Chinese heritage.

"The whole world is looking at the relationship between China and the US. Though most of such attention goes to political, security and economic issues, I personally think the foundation of this relationship is actually based on the mutual understandings between the young generations of the two countries," said Cui at the groundbreaking ceremony at Harvard.

"The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center can greatly help enhance such communications and understandings between the youth of China and the US, which is very meaningful," Cui said, adding that the Chao Center can "inspire young people from all over the world".

The 90,000-square-foot executive-education facility will be completed in 2016. It will serve as a multifunction center for global students who attend programs at the Harvard Business School, guests and students from MBA and doctorate programs at the school.

"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," said James S. C. Chao.

"It is fitting that this campus will have a building bearing the name of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao," said Harvard President Drew Faust at the ceremony. "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."

Ruth Mulan Chu Chao was born in 1930 in East China's Anhui province. Her father named her in honor of the Chinese folklore heroine Hua Mulan, who joined an all-male army in place of her father. She and her husband moved to the US in 1961 and raised six daughters. At the age of 53, she earned a master's degree in Asian Literature and history from St. John's University.

Her husband earned a master's degree in business administration from St. John's University, and established Foremost Group in 1964, an international shipping and trading company, which became one of the largest private dry-bulk fleets in the US.

Groundbreaking held for Harvard biz center named for a Chinese American

Together with her husband, she created a series of charitable foundations, which have provided more than 5,000 scholarships to students in need.

"Because of their help, so many young people could have access to education, and reach the highest of their lives. We are all grateful to it. What the Chaos have done tell us again that with smart brains, we can be successful, but with a loving and a caring heart, we can achieve much more," said Cui.

"Both my parents come from families that believe strongly in the value of education. So securing a good education for their daughters was a top priority when my parents immigrated to this country," said Elaine Chao.

Elaine Chao and three of her sisters graduated from the Harvard Business School, making the Chao family the only one in HBS's history to have so many daughters get degrees from the school.

"We are Americans that are so proud to be beneficiaries of two cultures," said Elaine Chao at the ceremony, adding that the Harvard University help to "equipped" them the tools in "facing the rapidly changing society".

 Groundbreaking held for Harvard biz center named for a Chinese American

Cui Tiankai (second from right), Chinese ambassador to the US, with Drew Faust, president of Harvard University (fifth from left), the Chao family and other guests at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center at the Harvard Business School in Boston on Thursday. Liu Zhonghua / for China Daily

(China Daily USA 04/25/2014 page1)