James S.C. Chao

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James S.C. Chao
James S.C. Chao.jpg
Born James Si-Cheng Chao
Jiading District, Shanghai
Nationality American
Occupation Oceangoing Sea Captain

Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao (Chinese: 趙錫成; pinyin: Zhào Xīchéng) is an American merchant mariner, business leader, and philanthropist. He is the founder of Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping, trading, and finance enterprise. The James S.C. Chao Scholarship is named after him.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Chao was born in a small, rural farming village in Jiading District outside Shanghai, China. His parents were Yi-Ren Chao, an elementary school principal, and Yu-Chin Hsu Chao; they were farmers who "emphasized the value of education".[2] He initially met his future wife, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, when she and her family relocated to Shanghai from their ancestral estate in Anhui Province during the war. In 1949, each relocated separately to Taiwan at the culmination of the Chinese Civil War.[3] There, James searched for Ruth for 2 years before they were finally reunited and married in 1951. In the mid-1950s, he advanced with unprecedented speed through the ranks to become one of the youngest ocean-going marine captains of that time at the age of 29.[4][5] He moved to the United States, settling in New York City the same year[6][7] He initially had to leave behind his then 7-month pregnant wife and two young children before bringing them to the United States three years later.[8][9] He went on to receive a master's degree from St. John's University (1964).[10]


In 1964, after receiving an MBA in management from St. John’s University, Dr. Chao founded Foremost Group, a shipping, trading and finance enterprise based in New York where he remains Chairman to this day.[11] Dr. Chao has led the global shipping industry in incorporating “greener,” more environmentally friendly designs and technology into his company’s fleet of new vessels, some of the world’s largest bulk carriers.[4] In 2004, Dr. Chao was inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame at the United Nations in recognition of his long-standing service and dedication to the international maritime trading industry.[4]


Active philanthropists, Dr. Chao and his wife established the Mulan Foundation in 1984 to provide scholarships to help students in the U.S. and China access higher education and to promote U. S.-China cultural exchanges.[8]

Most recently, in October 2012, Harvard University announced that Chao and his family foundation would donate $40,000,000 to the Harvard Business School for the construction of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center and the establishment of the Ruth Mulan Chu and James Si-Cheng Chao Family Fellowship Fund.[12][13]

The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center will be a new building dedicated to executive education. It’s the first building on campus named after a woman and of an Asian surname. The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center will serve as a gateway for the more than 10,000 executives annually who participate in executive programs. The Chao Center is named after Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, to memorialize the life and legacy of the matriarch of the Chao family who died on August 2, 2007. This gift is was given during the 375th anniversary of the founding of Harvard University and on the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to the Harvard Business School.[13]


Dr. Chao is the first winner of the Chinese American Academic and Professional Society Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award (2004).[14] He was awarded the "Ellis Island Medal of Honor" (2005).[15] The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Citizen and Immigration Service recognized him in February 2008 as an Outstanding American by Choice.[9]

In 2009, he was inducted into the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.[16] In 2010, the Museum of Chinese in America honored Dr. Chao with its inaugural Outstanding Achievement Award for the Chao Family; the first time ever such an honor has been awarded in its 130 years history.

Dr. Chao has also served as an advisor, adjunct professor, and member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees for decades and the recipient of St. John’s University’s Medal of Honor, the highest honor that the University can confer upon any alumnus. Dr. Chao continues as its Trustee Emeritus.

Dr. Chao has served for more than a decade as Chairman of both the Chiao-Tung University Alumni Association in America and the Chiao-Tung University Alumni Foundation of America from 1988-1999.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Ruth Mu-Lan Chu Chao (died August 2, 2007).[17] They have six daughters, Elaine, Jeannette, May, Christine, Grace, and Angela[18][19] and six grandchildren.[20] Their eldest daughter, Elaine Chao, served as the 24th United States Secretary of Labor in the Cabinet of President George W. Bush (2001–2009), the first Asian Pacific American woman ever appointed by a President to the Cabinet in American history; she is married to the Republican Leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell. Their youngest daughter Angela was married to financier Bruce Wasserstein until his death in 2009.


  1. ^ Financial Aid for Asian Americans. Reference Service Press. 2006. p. 349. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "Childhood & Family". ElaineLChao.com. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ "James S. C. Chao Chairman Foremost Group New York Class Year: 2009". Horatio Alger Association. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "Bio of Dr. James S.C. Chao, The Inaugural CAAPS Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award Winner". Chinese American Academic and Professional Society (CAAPS). Retrieved June 1, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Chao Family Foundations". 
  6. ^ Hutchison, Kay Bailey (13 October 2009). Leading Ladies. HarperCollins. p. 359. ISBN 978-0-06-174832-5. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Gall, Susan B. (1 January 1995). Asian American Biography: A-L. UXL. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8103-9688-3. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Ordinary yet Extraordinary, The Ruth Mulan Chu CHao Story". Asian Fortune. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "2008 Outstanding American by Choice Recipients". US Citizenship and Immigration Service. Retrieved June 2, 2013. 
  10. ^ "James S. C. Chao Chairman Foremost Group New York Class Year: 2009". Horatio Alger Association. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Harvard Business School Building Boom Continues". Harvard Magazine. October 12, 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Koch, Katie (October 14, 2012). "Chao family gives $40 million to HBS". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Dension, D.C. (October 12, 2012). "Harvard Business School gets $40 million family donation". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Bio of Dr. James S.C. Chao, The Inaugural CAAPS Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award Winner". bostonese.com English-Chinese Online Journal / 波士顿华人双语网 Largest English-Chinese Bilingual News Magazine in the USA. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "World renowned Maritime celebrity, Dr. James S. C. Chao visited Fudan University". Fudan University Education Development Foundation. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  16. ^ "Chao, 2009 Horatio Alger Award Winner". Marine Magazine. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ Chao, Elaine. "Ordinary Yet Extraordinary – Ruth Mulan Chu Chao’s Story". Asian Fortune. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Deaths CHAO, RUTH MULAN CHU". The New York Times. August 8, 2007. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  19. ^ United States of America. Congressional Record - Proceedings and Debates of the 110th Congress - First Session. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Dr. James S.C. Chao". The Foremost Foundation. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 

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