Flanked by an all-star cast of political leaders, HBS Dean Nitin Nohria and Harvard University President Drew Faust announced a $40 million gift to Harvard Business School from Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation.
Of the $40 million, $35 million is devoted to the construction of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, a new executive education building that will replace Kresge Hall. The building is named in honor of the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, the matriarch of the only family in school history to have had four daughters attend HBS.
The remaining $5 million will be used to establish the Ruth Mulan Chu and James Si-Cheng Chao Family Fellowship Fund, which will provide financial assistance to students of Chinese heritage.
“Of the days in a Dean’s life that are the best days, this is one of them,” Nohria said. “Ruth Mulan Chu Chao was a remarkable woman, and she is a symbol of all we hope our students will become. The Chao Center honors the opportunities their family had, and it will create opportunities for thousands of students who will pass through this remarkable new space.”
Construction on the new building is scheduled to begin in January 2014. It is anticipated that Kresge Hall will be demolished in December 2013. The architectural firm of Goody Clancy will design the new building, which is still under conceptualization; artwork of the new center is not yet available.
Joining Nohria on the dais were Harvard University President Drew Faust, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and Elaine Chao ’79, who became the first Asian-American woman ever to serve in an American President’s cabinet when she served as US Secretary of Labor under former President George W. Bush.
“This is another world-class building that will attract world-class executives who will do great things,” Menino said. The Mayor said the Chao family’s story was a prime example of a family that had lived the American dream.
“It’s the American story,” Menino said. “[James Chao] immigrated to America to build a better life and future for his family. It’s an amazing story that represents the best of our country.”
Menino also said the Chao family story was quintessentially a Boston story, noting that people of Chinese descent now comprise Boston’s second largest immigrant group.
Elaine Chao delivered a moving tribute to her mother and father, heralding their courage and perseverance in the face of hardship. She praised their commitment to the value of education, and spoke excitedly about how the donation will allow them to continue serving aspiring minds across the globe.
“In an age of globalization, the center will serve as a gateway and convening site for tens of thousands of Executive MBA students from around the world,” Chao said. “But it is my mother’s spirit of altruism that my dad hopes the best university in the world will instill in the best students in the world.”