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.
In 2007, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao passed away after a valiant seven-year battle with lymphoma. In a statement following his beloved wife’s passing, Dr. Chao noted that, ‘Ruth and I were married for 57 years before she returned to the Lord on August 2, 2007. My wife is the love of my life and my soul mate.’
Dr. and Mrs. James S.C. Chao dedicated their lives to promoting the values of education, volunteerism and philanthropy. More than 5,000 American and Chinese students have been given the opportunity to widen their horizons through the generous scholarships provided by the Shanghai Mulan Education Foundation, and other Chao family philanthropies. Despite a busy career, Dr. Chao has always found time to serve on numerous boards, including as adjunct professor, advisor, and Trustee of the St. John’s University Board of Governors. In recognition of his lifelong contributions to the University and dedication to education, St. John’s conferred its most prestigious award -- the Medal of Honor-- upon Dr. Chao. Dr. Chao remains as Trustee Emeritus of St. John’s University.
Dr. Chao is an active supporter of many other academic institutions with which he has been associated. He served as Chairman of the Chiao-Tung University Alumni Association in America for 11 years. From 1988-1999, he also chaired Chiao-Tung University’s Alumni Foundation in America. Following the passing of his beloved wife, Ruth, he has chosen to celebrate her life and legacy through his philanthropic giving. Dr. Chao sponsored the Mulan Marine Simulation Memorial Building at Shanghai Maritime University, the world’s first state-of-the-art, 360-degree, marine simulation training center. He also endowed Jiao Tong University in Shanghai with the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao building, a ten story, 336,000 square-foot structure that is a vibrant part of the University’s campus.
On October 12, 2012, Harvard University announced a $40 million gift to the University to construct the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, which will anchor the Executive Education programs at Harvard Business School. In addition, the gift will support the Ruth Mulan Chu and James Si-Cheng Chao Family Fellowship Fund at Harvard Business School. With this gift, Dr. Chao not only recognized Harvard University’s 350th anniversary, but the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to Harvard Business School, which four of his daughters attended. The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center will also have the distinction of being the first building on the Harvard campus to be named for a woman and for an American of Chinese ancestry.
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.