America's Competitiveness in a Global Environment

In December 1997, Opus Corporation funded an endowment at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business to develop an international speakers program. Today, the Opus Distinguished Speakers Program brings nationally recognized leaders of business, government and academia to campus for periods of up to five days. Those leaders invited to serve as Opus Speakers are chosen for their outstanding accomplishments, public service and character.

2010 Speaker: Elaine Chao, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Elaine L. Chao served as the nation’s 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor, from 2001-2009. She was the first Asian Pacific American woman and the first Chinese American to be appointed to a president’s cabinet, and is the longest serving secretary of labor since World War II.

Secretary Chao began her service to the U.S. in 1986 as deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation. She served as chair of the Federal Maritime Commission from 1988 to 1989, then as deputy secretary of transportation in 1989. From 1991 to 1992, she was director of the Peace Corps, establishing the first programs in the Baltic nations and newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

As president and CEO of United Way of America from 1992 to 1996, Secretary Chao is credited with restoring trust in the organization after a public mismanagement scandal.

Secretary Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family at the age of eight. She earned a B.A. in economics from Mt. Holyoke College, an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and is the recipient of 31 honorary doctorate degrees.

Currently, Secretary Chao is a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation and serves on a number of Fortune 500 corporate boards.

The purpose of the Opus Distinguished Speakers Program is to expose students and faculty to the latest ideas and forces that are shaping American and international business. Leaders and executives, who face these issues daily, provide significant educational enrichment that complements the in-class curriculum. In addition, the program enhances the reputation of the business school by affording the greater community access to the visiting scholar.