Dr. James S.C. Chao is a recognized leader in international shipping and finance. Born in a small village outside of Shanghai to Mr. Yi-Ren Chao (赵以仁 先生) who was a school principal and Mrs. Yu-Chin Hsu Chao (赵许月琴 女士). At the age of 29, Dr. Chao was among the youngest ocean-faring captains of that time. He passed the national Master Mariner Examination with the highest recorded grade, a record that stands to this day. His exceptional performance on this examination was a key factor in providing him the opportunity to study in the United States.
After earning a Masters in Business Administration degree from St. John’s University in New York City, Dr. Chao established Foremost Maritime Corporation. The company later evolved into Foremost Group, where he still serves as Chairman (his daughter Angela Chao serves as Deputy Chairman). Since its founding, Foremost Group has gained a reputation for high standards of excellence, service, integrity and reliability. Under Dr. Chao’s guidance, Foremost Group has become a global leader in promoting sustainability through the adoption of environmentally friendly ship designs and technology. Foremost Group’s latest bulk carrier ships have been ranked among the most sensitive to the environment in their class. For his contributions to the domestic and international maritime industry, Dr. Chao was inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame at the United Nations in May of 2004.
Dr. Chao has led the global shipping industry in incorporating environmentally friendly designs and technology in his company’s fleet of new ships which are some of the world’s largest environmentally sensitive bulk carriers.
Active philanthropists and volunteers throughout their lives, Dr. Chao and his wife, the late Mrs. Ruth Mu-Lan Chu Chao, through their Shanghai Mulan Education Foundation and other charitable contributions, have awarded thousands of scholarships to students in the United States and China. A strong and dedicated champion of higher education, he has served as an advisor, adjunct professor, and member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees for decades. In appreciation of Dr. Chao for his devoted service and contributions, St. John’s bestowed upon Dr. Chao as early as in 1981 the highest honor that the University can bestow upon any alumnus, the Medal of Honor. Today, 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. He has also served in various leadership roles in his church throughout his life. Since his beloved wife, Ruth’s passing, Dr. Chao has devoted his philanthropic giving to honor her memory. He has built a 336,000 square foot three tower, 10 story academic building, the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao building, at his alma mater, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and the first 360 degree marine simulation training center in the world, the Mulan Maritime Simulation Memorial Center, at Shanghai Maritime University. He is also working on several major philanthropic projects here in the United States. On October 12, 2012, Dr. James S. C. Chao made a significant gift to Harvard University and Harvard Business School on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of Harvard University and the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to the Harvard Business School, to establish the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center and James Si-Cheng and Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Fellowship. This building will be the first on campus named after a woman and an American of Chinese descent. Dr. Chao serves on the board of the Chao Center
Dr. Chao has received numerous academic, professional and civic awards throughout his career. His academic honors include an honorary Doctorate of Law from Niagara University; an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Nyack University; and, the Distinguished Achievement & Contribution Award from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He was also honored with the very first Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chinese American Academic & Professional Society (CAAPS).
Dr. Chao is a recipient of many prestigious civic awards, as well. These include the Ellis Island award (with his daughter, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao), and the Horatio Alger Award from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. In addition, Dr. Chao was honored as an Outstanding American by Choice by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and has received the outstanding service award from American Legion Post 1291. Dr. Chao also received the Outstanding Life Achievement Award from the New York Community Times, and the Lifetime Legacy Award from the International Leadership Foundation. He has also been recognized by the Asian-American community for his many contributions. Sing Tao Daily newspaper awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the New York State Asian Job Service Employer Committee honored him with an Outstanding Achievement Award. In 2006, the Asian Pacific American community of Kentucky presented the Special Recognition Award for Life Accomplishments to Dr. and Mrs. Chao. In 2007, Dr. Chao was listed as one of the Top 50 Asian American Business Persons of the Year. In 2010, the Museum of Chinese in America gave its inaugural award of Lifetime Achievement and Contribution to Dr. Chao and his family.