UC Irvine Health News
Chao family support has built UC Irvine Health’s comprehensive cancer center into a community resource — and much more
June 26, 2017
The four Chao siblings and their spouses – along with their father and adult children – have donated nearly $30 million to UC Irvine, quietly transforming cancer research and healthcare in the region. Shown are (front row, from left) June Chao, Agnes Kung, Lee Chao and Phylis Hsia and (back, from left) Richard Chao, J.K. Kung, Allen Chao and David Hsia.
Their name may be on UC Irvine buildings, but members of the Chao family prefer working behind the scenes to improve the health of the community.
Since their first gift to the university in 1995, three generations of Chaos have given nearly $30 million to the campus, quietly reshaping cancer research and healthcare in Orange County and beyond.
Recently, the second-eldest of the four Chao siblings, Allen Chao, agreed to discuss the story behind the family’s philanthropy, but only because doing so might raise awareness of UC Irvine Health’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center as a community resource.
The tale he tells includes a brush with death, a tranquilizer that treats schizophrenia and a dash of motherly wisdom. It begins in the late 1960s, when the siblings — Allen, Agnes, Phylis and Richard — trickled out of Taiwan to attend colleges in the United States.
Allen Chao started his U.S. career at G.D. Searle, when it was still a family-owned and ‑operated pharmaceutical business. Eventually, he determined that he’d rather have his own family’s name on his business card.
In 1984, he co-founded a generic drug manufacturing company with brother-in-law David Hsia, Phylis’ husband and a fellow Purdue University alumnus. After being rebuffed by banks and venture capital outfits, they turned to relatives and friends in California for startup funding and launched Watson Pharmaceuticals — the maiden name of Chao’s …