Harvard Business School yesterday (April 24) broke ground on its Boston campus for the construction of a new Executive Education facility—the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center. The new center, the first HBS building named for a woman as well as the first to recognize an American of Chinese descent, will be the 35th building on the business school campus.
The Chao Center, which will house meeting rooms, office and dining facilities as well as classrooms, is the result of a $40 million gift from a Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation. When the building is completed in 2016, it will serve as the gateway to HBS for the more than 10,000 executives who attend on-campus programs each year and as a vibrant hub that will enable Executive Education participants to meet with one other and with faculty, guests and students from the School’s MBA and Doctoral programs.
The gift was given in tribute to the life and legacy of the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, matriarch of the Chinese-American family. The Chao family—the only one in HBS history to have had four daughters attend the School: The Honorable Elaine Chao, May Chao, Grace Chao, Angela Chao —made their gift on April 12, 2012, during the 50th anniversary celebration of women in Harvard’s two-year MBA program and the 375th anniversary of Harvard University. The Foundation has also established a Fellowship program, the Ruth Mulan Chu and James S. C. Chao Family Fellowship. The Center is scheduled to open in June 2016.
BUILDING WILL BECOME ‘A GATEWAY TO THE NORTH’
“As the Harvard Business School campus evolves, and Harvard University’s plan for the Allston Campus come to life, [the Chao Center] will become a gateway to the North, connecting us to Harvard University, parts of the University that lie north of the Charles River, [and] to Allston, the growing space on this side of the river,” said HBS Dean Nitin Nohria at the ground breaking.
“It may seem odd that we remain so committed to building magnificent, distinctive, and functional physical spaces,” he said. “The real value of our buildings comes from the communities that they help create, the learning environments that they make possible, and the human interactions they generate. This can never be replicated in any other place than real physical spaces.”
The ceremony also included remarks from Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao (MBA 1979), Deputy Chairman of Foremost Group Angela Chao (AB 1994, MBA 2001), former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and the Honorable Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States.
Chao family patriarch Dr. James S. C. Chao said, “Our family is so pleased to be here on the auspicious occasion of the groundbreaking of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center. We are grateful to America for welcoming us and giving our family so many opportunities. We are grateful to the culture of our ancestral land, China, because its emphasis on education and family provided Ruth and me with such a strong foundation.” He added, “We believe this Center will embody Ruth’s spirit and become a dynamic meeting place for members of the University community from all over the world, which will enable them to better understand one another to build a better world.”