Back to About Us

Dr. James S.C. Chao


In 1964, Dr. James S.C. Chao with his late wife, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, founded Foremost Group, a global leader in the dry bulk shipping industry. Today, he serves in the position of Honorary Chairman.

He grew up in an educated family in a small farming village in China. Early in his career, he advanced quickly through the ranks to become one of the youngest ocean-going sea captains at the age of 29. Later, he took the national Master Mariner Examination and achieved the highest score ever recorded and was thus honored as the first “Zhuang Yuan Chuan Zhang” or “Champion Captain.” This achievement gave him an opportunity to pursue further studies in the United States.

After earning his MBA in Management from St. John’s University in New York in 1964, Dr. Chao founded Foremost Maritime Corporation, which was later expanded to Foremost Group. As an early adopter of green technology, Foremost Group has incorporated fuel-efficient designs and technologies in its fleet of ships, which are ranked among the world’s most eco-friendly bulk carriers. For his outstanding contributions to the maritime industry, Dr. Chao was inducted into the International Maritime Hall of Fame at the United Nations in New York City.

Dr. Chao and his late wife, Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao, have dedicated their lives to promoting education and philanthropy. Thousands of students have been awarded scholarships through family foundations. To commemorate Ruth’s legacy of faith, family, and philanthropy, generous gifts have been made toward the construction of Mulan Marine Simulation Memorial Center at Shanghai Maritime University; the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Building at Shanghai Jiao Tong University; and the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center at Harvard University, the first building named after an Asian-American and the first building named after a woman in Harvard’s history, among others.

The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Dr. Chao has been honored with the Ellis Island Award as well as the Horatio Alger Award of Distinguished Americans at the United States Supreme Court. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognized Dr. Chao with its special honor as an Outstanding American by Choice. The Museum of Chinese in America honored Dr. Chao with the first Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in its over 30-year history. He was also presented the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chinese American Academic and Professional Society. Dr. Chao and his charitable foundations were honored with the International Leadership Foundation’s inaugural Organizational Award. American Legion Post 1291 presented their Outstanding Service Award to Dr. Chao. The U.S.-China Education Trust awarded Dr. Chao its Asians in America Leadership and Achievement Award in recognition of an inspirational leader who made a difference for his community, country, and the world. St. John’s University, Niagara University, Nyack University, National Taiwan Ocean University, National Chiao Tung University and Fu Jen University have all bestowed Honorary Doctorate Degrees on Dr. Chao. In recognition of his outstanding leadership in the maritime community, the Seamen’s Church Institute conferred upon Dr. Chao its highest honor, the Silver Bell Award.  The Chinese Institute of Engineers, USA presented its Centennial Medal to Dr. Chao for his leadership in adopting energy-efficient and eco-friendly ship design and technology.  Massachusetts Maritime Academy awarded Dr. Chao its Admiral’s Distinguished Service Award for inspiring leadership and contributions to society. Most recently, Columbia University awarded Dr. Chao its inaugural EPIC Achievement Award, SUNY Maritime College awarded Dr. Chao its Admiral’s Award, and Lloyd’s List Americas awarded Dr. Chao with its Lifetime Achievement Award. At its 2018 Commencement Ceremony, Massachusetts Maritime Academy conferred upon Dr. Chao the degree of Doctor of Public Administration, honoris causa.

Dr. Chao is a dedicated philanthropist, sponsoring various educational scholarships, including Harvard Business School, Harvard College, SUNY Maritime and St. John’s University to name a few, schools and training facilities in the U.S. and China. He founded the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Foundation and Foremost Foundation and has been the recipient of numerous awards (Link to news page) over the course of his career.

A resident of New York for 60 years, Dr. Chao was married to the late Mrs. Ruth Mulan Chu Chao for over 56 years and has six children and six grandchildren.

© 2022 Foremost Group. All rights reserved.