Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria called the Chao saga “the embodiment of the American Dream.” A former sea captain based in Taiwan, Chao arrived alone in America the day after Christmas in 1958. It took him three years before he was able to save enough money to send for his family to join him. Even so, the only passage he could afford for them was on a cargo ship. After their arrival in New York, the family of five lived in a small one-bedroom apartment and Chao worked three jobs to make ends meet.
In 1964, after graduating with an MBA from St. John’s University, he founded Foremost Maritime Corporation (now a part of Foremost Group) in New York City. His company was the major agent for shipments of rice to Vietnam during the war, and Foremost carried A.I.D. cargo for the United Nations during the Bangladesh war. Today, Foremost is a well-established, much respected international organization with activities in shipping, trading, and finance.
‘THE CHAO FAMILY IS THE EMBODIMENT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM’
“The Chao family is the embodiment of the American dream, and we are humbled by their generosity,” said Nohria in a statement. “The new center will be the gateway to Executive Education at the School, and where we welcome the more than 10,000 managers and leaders who come to HBS each year from around the world. What is also very special about this gift is the story of the Chao family. To come to this country, and to rebuild their lives and achieve so much, speaks volumes about Dr. and Mrs. Chao’s courage and fortitude. Giving back in the way they have through public service and philanthropy speaks in equal measure to their individual and family values.”
The Honorable Elaine L. Chao (HBS MBA ’79), U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009 and the first Asian-American woman ever appointed to the President’s cabinet in American history, added in a statement accompanying the news release on the gift: “My mother was an incredibly inspiring person. She was a positive, optimistic person who believed in the transformational power of education regardless of gender in developing leaders for the world. Throughout our formative years, she always emphasized our responsibility to contribute to society and being kind and generous to others.”
“My family and Harvard Business School have had a remarkable relationship spanning four decades,” said Angela Chao, the youngest daughter of the Chao family (Harvard AB ’95 and HBS MBA ’01). “We are so pleased to be able to further the School’s work of educating leaders who make a difference in the world while at the same time honoring our mother – the woman who inspired us with her selflessness and courage.”