James S. C. Chao, Founder and Honorary Chairman of Foremost Group, to Receive Honorary Award at Launch of a Center at Columbia Teachers College That Will Study Failure as an Educational Tool to Success


Dr. James S. C. Chao, Founder and Honorary Chairman of the Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping, trading, and finance enterprise, will receive the first EPIC Innovation Award from Teachers College, Columbia University, in an event marking the opening of EPIC, the Education for Persistence and Innovation Center.

Following a private award ceremony on Tuesday, April 17, Dr. Chao will join his daughters, the Honorable  Elaine L. Chao, the first Asian American woman to be appointed to the President’s cabinet in American history, and Angela Chao, Chair and C.E.O. of Foremost Group for a public conversation about his experiences in overcoming extreme adversity to become an entrepreneur and founder of one of the world’s most respected shipping companies.

EPIC is a new, interdisciplinary research and development center based at Teachers College and other schools at Columbia Univrsity that will study and test hypotheses about how to use failure as a catalyst for innovation and success. The Center’s founder and director, Xiaodong Lin-Siegler, is Professor of Cognitive Studies at Teachers College, and has written extensively about the value of failure in promoting learning and success.

Stuart Firestein, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and co-director of EPIC, will take part in an interdisciplinary panel discussion about failure. He will be joined by Robert Siegler, Teresa Heinz Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and incoming Schiff Foundation Professor of Psychology at Teachers College; and Jonathan Weiner, Maxwell M. Geffen Professor of Medical and Scientific Journalism, Columbia University.

Moderated by Dr. Lin-Siegler, the panel will examine how failure can build resilience and perseverance, not only in the sciences, where failure is a standard feature of scientific inquiry, but also in teaching and learning, and in business entrepreneurship as well.

Dr. Chao grew up in a small farming village in war-torn China, overcoming great adversity at a young age to access education at one of the best universities in China.    He left China during that country’s Civil War and became one of the youngest sea captains of his time before immigrating to the U.S., where he earned his MBA in Management from St. John’s University.  He went on to establish a thriving shipping business and eventually became a leader in the global shipping industry, a pioneer in green technology, and a visionary philanthropist and patriarch of a distinguished Chinese-American family.The recipient of innumerable awards and recognitions, Dr. James S. C. Chao, a resident of New York, and his late wife, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, are the parents of six daughters and grandchildren.

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