“Our family was originally from China, and we have experienced the transnational aspects of the business world that are the focus of this center.”
With his siblings, Albert Chao continues to honor the philanthropic legacy of his parents, Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao. He serves as president of the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation, which furthers cultural, civic, and higher education institutions. The work of the foundation has reached a myriad of universities throughout Texas—including Rice University, University of Houston, Baylor University, and the University of Texas at Austin. The Chao family’s philanthropy has been a critical driver in advancing the state’s intellectual and cultural assets.
A pioneer in the chemical and plastics industries, Mr. T. T. Chao, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 86, created a successful career that spanned more than 60 years. He established the petrochemical industry in Taiwan and Southeast Asia and founded plastics and fabrication companies throughout the world, including ventures in the United States, Canada, China, and Hong Kong. In 1986, with his sons, James and Albert, who currently serve as chairman, and president and CEO, respectively, Mr. T. T. Chao formed what is now Westlake Chemical Corporation. Mr. Chao’s wife, Wei Fong, who passed away in 2014, was deeply devoted to many philanthropic causes, from serving on the board of Jinling Girls High School in Taipei, to working with numerous Buddhist organizations. She had served as the president of the family foundation, where she made significant contributions to healthcare, educational, religious, and cultural organizations around the world.
In a low-key manner, the Chao family has been extremely generous in its support of Houston’s contributions globally, particularly in science and industry. Much of the foundation’s support continues to advance the contributions of Mr. T. T. Chao (in the chemical plastics industry) through science and technology. Since the family’s arrival in Houston, they have witnessed the economic transformation of the city both nationally and globally. Their generous philanthropic contributions have further strengthened the city as a center of science and industry. For example, every year, the Chemical Heritage Foundation organizes the T. T. Chao Symposium on Innovation, a major public conference. The event brings together established and emerging leaders in the technical, entrepreneurial, and policy sectors to consider how Houston can adapt its industrial and entrepreneurial heritage to address society's needs in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Center for Bioinformatics Research and Imaging for Neurosciences (BRAIN) at Houston Methodist Research Institute is working toward cures for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. The center’s research includes developing and integrating new bioinformatics, bioimaging, and bioengineering methods for the central nervous system. Through support from the foundation, the Chao BRAIN Center seeks to translate research findings into clinical therapies quickly and effectively through a comprehensive, systems-level approach.
In 2007, the Chao family pledged USD 15 million (RMB 91 million) for the T. T. and W. F. Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University. The academic center distinguishes itself from others through its explicitly transnational focus, emphasizing how people, ideas, products, and technologies travel across national and other boundaries. Albert Chao stated, “Our family was originally from China, and we have experienced the transnational aspects of the business world that are the focus of this center,” said Albert Chao at the time of the gift. One of the goals of the gift was “to develop a leading Asian studies center during what some scholars refer to as ‘Asia’s century.’” Additionally, the foundation enabled the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Arts of China Gallery to provide a permanent space of three adjoining rooms to showcase the Houston Museum of Art’s collection of Chinese artwork.