Published Feb 02, 2023 by A.J. Mistretta
HOUSTON (February 2, 2023) –The Greater Houston Partnership presented the 2023 Robert C. McNair Civic Leadership Award to philanthropic leaders the Chao family at the organization’s Annual Meeting on Thursday.
This is the first time that the award was presented not to an individual but to a family whose members exemplify the great power that lies in civic and philanthropic leadership—and have built a legacy that transcends borders.
Ting Tsung Chao, known to many as "T.T.," had a revered 60-year career in which he founded numerous successful petrochemical and materials companies across the globe—including Houston-based Westlake – formerly known as Westlake Chemical Corporation.
Born to humble beginnings in Suzhou, China, T.T. found his entrepreneurial penchant after he moved his family to Taiwan in the 1940s. Less than a decade later, T.T. co-founded the country’s first PVC business and would go on to form the China General Plastics Corporation Group, which at the time was among the top 10 companies in Taiwan and number two in the petrochemical industry.
While growing his business – T.T. and his wife, Wei Fong, had three children – Dorothy, James, and Albert– all of whom play a significant part in this family’s inspiring story and are paving paths of their own.
In the mid-80s, T.T.’s business acumen pointed him towards Houston. T.T. and his sons, Albert and James, founded Westlake Chemical Corporation, which started with a modest plant in neighboring Louisiana.
Today, listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Westlake operates 100 sites globally with approximately 16,000 employees, maintains a position on the Fortune 500 list and is approaching its fortieth anniversary.
“Known for both volunteerism and generous gifts that have changed the face of our city, the Chao’s show us that generational impact is a rewarding result of long-term community commitment,” said Partnership 2020 Chair Bobby Tudor in presenting the award to the Chao family.
Today, T.T.’s children are carrying on his legacy in notable fashion through continued business leadership with Westlake Corporation and philanthropy through the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation, with a particular emphasis on supporting organizations working to expand health care and education.
Notable gifts from the Foundation include the establishment of the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University, in honor of their parents, T.T. and Wei Fong Chao, to highlight the importance of Asian studies at American universities.
James, the eldest son, is Chairman of Westlake’s Board of Directors. Dorothy serves as a Director of Westlake’s Board, a position she’s held for twenty years. And Albert serves as Westlake’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Under his and James’ leadership, Westlake continues to grow and innovate, constantly evolving to adapt to an ever-changing business climate.
Albert, and with his wife Anne, are steadfast supporters of many of Houston’s cultural and civic organizations.
“As first-generation immigrants to receive this esteemed award, we see this as a reflection of Houston’s rich multicultural society. And it provides encouragement to other business and civic leaders to do their part to contribute to the benefit and welfare of the greater community of Houston,” said Albert Chao in accepting the award. “Over the last 30 years, it has been our pleasure and honor to serve on the boards of various Houston organizations, which have been our partners in how we have tried to give back to the city we have made our home.”
Established in 2020, the McNair Award is presented by the Greater Houston Partnership annually business leaders who have made an outsized impact on our community — through civic and philanthropic leadership – honoring the lifelong legacy imparted by the award’s namesake, Bob McNair.
Greater Houston Partnership
The Greater Houston Partnership works to make Houston one of the best places to live, work and build a business. As the economic development organization for the region, the Partnership champions growth across 12 counties by bringing together business and civic-minded leaders who are dedicated to the area’s long-term success. Representing more than 950 member organizations and approximately one-fifth of the region’s workforce, the Partnership is the place companies come together to make an impact. Learn more at Houston.org.
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