Harvard Business School broke ground on the construction of the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, a new facility for the school’s Executive Education program, on Thursday.
The building’s namesake, the late Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, was the matriarch of the Chao family, from which four daughters, including former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, attended the Business School’s MBA program.
The 90,000-square-foot facility will house meeting rooms, dining facilities, office space, and classrooms for use by the over 10,000 executives who participate in the Executive Education program each year, and is being funded through a $40 million gift from the Chao family to the Business School in late 2012.
Speakers at the ceremony included University President Drew G. Faust, Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin M. Rudd, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, Elaine Chao, and the Honorable Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States.
The Chao Center, Nohria said, will act as a hub for executives, students, and faculty members from across the Business School’s programs to convene and collaborate. He added that the building will do much to facilitate connections between the Business School and the rest of the University.
“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,” Nohria said.
Nohria also emphasized the importance of the building in providing Business School community members with an environment in which they may collaborate, highlighting the importance of such spaces in a globalizing educational setting.
“It may seem odd that we remain so committed to building magnificent, distinctive, and functional physical spaces,” he said, alluding to the Business School’s recent expansion into the world of online education with its new online learning platform, HBX. “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 building marks the first at the Business School campus to be named after a woman, as well as the first building on the school’s campus to be named after an American of Chinese descent, according to a press release.
“We are so grateful because of what this building will do, bringing Executive Education participants together from all over the world to learn and to collaborate. But we are also so grateful because of what this building will be,” Faust said. “I take a special pleasure in the representation of so much of the power of women in this family that this building will represent.”
—Staff writer Alexander H. Patel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @alexhpatel.