A jubilant crowd of Chao family members, Harvard Business School leaders and construction company officials came together on April 24, 2015 to “top off” the new Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center building on the Harvard Business School (HBS) campus. Construction began last year on the four-story, 90,000 square foot executive center, and the traditional “topping off” ceremony denotes that the exterior phase of the building is now complete. The excited guests were in agreement that with the harsh winter experienced in Boston this year, the fact that the building’s construction is on schedule is a testament to the amazing efforts of the engineers and construction workers involved.
The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center represents two firsts: it will be the first building on the Harvard campus named in honor of a woman, and the first named after someone of Chinese-American ancestry. The building was designed by the architectural firm of Goody Clancy and is expected to open its doors in 2016. It will be the premier hub at Harvard Business School, housing conference rooms, classrooms, and dining facilities, with ample space to host the 10,000 or more international executives who visit the Harvard campus to engage in executive programs each year. The Center’s vision is to create a space that will nurture collaborations and build a sense of community among the visiting executives and HBS faculty and students.
The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center is funded by a generous gift from family foundations of Dr. James S.C. Chao and Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, awarded in 2012, the year that Harvard University celebrated its 375th anniversary. Immigrants to America from their native home of China, the Chaos established a highly successful international shipping company while raising six daughters, four of whom attended Harvard Business School. They instilled in their daughters a strong work ethic, commitment to personal and professional integrity, and the overriding responsibility to give back to the community. This gift to HBS is just one example of their philanthropic efforts around the world. The Foundation will also endow a Ruth Mulan Chu and James S.C. Chao Family Fellowship Fund that will provide financial assistance to outstanding students, especially those of Chinese ancestry, who lack the means to pay for their education.
Harvard’s Dean Nitin Nohria opened the topping off ceremony and spoke of how the Center will provide a vital resource in the School’s efforts to form connections and create a sense of community with its visiting executives. Dr. Chao spoke of his family’s hope that those who come to the Center will be inspired to reach across cultural boundaries to build meaningful relationships and friendships. His sentiments were echoed by Angela Chao, Deputy Chair of Foremost Group and Harvard graduate. She noted that the increasingly complex and interconnected nature of the world requires collaborative efforts that span the globe, to solve the many challenges that we face today.