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Chao family establishes Asian studies chair

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A new professorship in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professorship in Asian Civilizations, has been established by James (BM 1971) and Lydia Chao. The professorship is named in honor of James Chao's parents.

The Chao professorship will be devoted to enhancing knowledge about East Asian cultures and societies with a particular emphasis on Buddhism as a philosophy and religion, and will honor a distinguished scholar and teacher in the field.

"We are extremely grateful to the Chao family for this wonderful gift, " said Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "The Chao professorship will add significantly to the range and depth of instruction in Asian studies at MIT and will attract additional students and scholars to our already popular courses."

Provost Robert A. Brown commented, "The T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professorship will be a substantial contribution to MIT's international initiatives, especially as it relates to China and the overseas Chinese communities throughout Asia."

A key feature of the professorship will be new curriculum development designed to take advantage of cross disciplinary scholarship on East Asian history, literature, religion and culture.

James Y. Chao is vice chairman of the Westlake Group in Houston, TX, and managing director of the Titan Group, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both Westlake and Titan are part of the Chao Group International, a leading global petrochemical and plastics manufacturer with operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Canada and the United States. The Chao Group is led by T.T. Chao, a pioneer in plastic manufacturing during the 1950s in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

Among their many charitable endeavors, the Chao family has established two charitable Taiwanese foundations that support cultural and educational activities. The family has also sponsored medical research and scholarship at Baylor College of Medicine and at the Center of Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University, both in Houston, TX, as well as the building of a technical college and retirement home in China.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 4, 2000.

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