Find out this year’s 25 honorees of Most Influential Asian Americans in Georgia

In the spirit of 2017 Asian American Heritage Month celebration, we are documenting the changing of power and the continual shifting of influence of Asian Americans in our communities. This year’s offer a listing of individuals who made an impact in arts, business, government, politics, social work, education, healthcare, and areas that influence every aspect of Georgian’s daily life. Some names are familiar as they continue to strive to make our community a better place to live. New faces are recognized for their effort and dedication to make a difference in the community. The list is made possible by the editorial staff and a selection committee comprises of community, civic, and media representatives.

 

Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D. 
Director
Emory Vaccine Center

Dr. Rafi Ahmed is the Georgia Research Alliance Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After completing his postdoctoral training in the Department of Immunology at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla, CA, he joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the UCLA School of Medicine.  He was at UCLA from 1984-1995 and moved to Emory University in 1995.  His research efforts are directed towards: 1. Understanding the mechanisms of immunological memory and using this knowledge to develop new and more effective vaccines. 2. Defining the mechanisms of T cell exhaustion during chronic viral infections and cancer and developing strategies for restoring function in exhausted T cells.

Dr. Ahmed is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

 

Ravi Chander
CEO
Softpath System

Ravi is the CEO of Softpath System in Atlanta, Georgia and serves on its Board of Directors. He has led a startup that grow to over 1500 employee organization worldwide. He is responsible for company’s worldwide operations. Softpath System is an award winning IT solutions, staffing and consulting firm that caters to small, medium and Fortune 500 companies nationwide. He currently mentored and provided employment opportunities to over 1000 young skilled individuals both in India and in US.

Ravi is currently the president of US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce (USPAACC Southeast chapter). He was the past president of Rotary club of Emory Druid Hills. He was also a charter member of Emory Druid Hills Rotary Club and has been a committed Rotarian ever since. In 2012 he was named his club’s Rotarian of the year and is nominated for “You are the Key” award for the year 2014.

He has been instrumental in the water purification projects in India. The major aim through this project was to provide clean water for drinking and domestic purposes to the fluoride affected areas of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states in India. These villages not only suffer due to shortage of water but also due to several excess- fluoride diseases. His relentless passion and effort to serve the under privileged was key in installing and maintaining over 150 Reverse Osmosis Water purification projects in India.

Ravi is passionate about the community – he regularly gives his time and financial support. His generosity of aiding students are on displayed with scholarships offered to students in US and India.

 

Allen Chen
President & Chairman of Board
NAAAP Atlanta

Allen Chen is a Vice President at Bank of America within the Co-Brand and Affinity Products Organization. Allen has over 14 years of experience in the Financial Services industry. Presently, he manages the second largest Co-Brand/Affinity credit card portfolio at Bank of America, overseeing the strategy for over one million customers. Outside of his day job at Bank of America, he manages a local chapter of an Asian-Focused Employee Resource Group while also serving as an Enterprise National Liaison for Bank of America to NAAAP.

Outside of work, Allen is passionate about diversity and inclusion, philanthropy, and community service. He was recognized in 2016, winning the Presidential Service Award for volunteerism.

Growing up as a second-generation immigrant, Allen has a deep appreciation for the Asian Community and recognizes the time and dedication that his previous generation has contributed to create a strong infrastructure for future generations. As an advocate of the Asian Community, he hopes to have a stronger united voice and representation to better the lives of members within the community.

 

Anne Chen
Sales Manager
Explore Gwinnett

Anne is proven leader with over 15 years experience in the food and beverage/hospitality industry. An experienced professional in all aspects of management, marketing, sales, event planning, and trade show coordination. An innovative, proactive, and reliable leader in the industry. Anne is a tireless promoter and her efforts in raising awareness of Gwinnett County has a positive economic and social impact.

She is an active community volunteer and serves on the board of Hudgens Center of Arts,  Atlanta Asian Film Festival and the Atlanta Dragon Boat Festival. She is a member of 2016 Leadership Gwinnett.


Stephanie Cho

Executive Director
Asian American Advancing Justice – Atlanta

Stephanie Cho is the Executive Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta. She brings over 15 years of experience in labor and community organizing, strategy planning, and fundraising at the local and national level.

Originally born in South Korea, Stephanie grew up in Oregon. After graduating from college, she started her career in organizing and movement work. She has been a community organizer, program director for LGBTQ youth programming, director of training for a national fellowship program, a labor organizer, and organizational consultant. Before coming to Advancing Justice, Stephanie was the Los Angeles Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC-LA) where she worked to raise industry standards and wages for LA’s restaurant workers.

Her works with Asian American Advancing Justice led to more than doubled the Asian American vote in the state of Georgia. She also created the Georgia Immigrant Alliance for Civic Empowerment, which represents 27 people of color organizations.

She believes in creating more space for new leadership, developing healthy and sustainable ways of working towards justice for all, and is moved by transnational forms of expressions of solidarity and movement building.

 

Amy Chomthakam
Laotian American Society

Amy was born in Laos, she immigrated to the US as refugee in 1981.  She lost both of her parents at a young age. and overcame many hardships in life. Amy is  thankful for all of the opportunities she has had and grateful for her siblings for instilling what her parents had taught them to her.   Amy attended Northern Illinois University.  Besides working a full time job at Bank of America for twenty years and being a very busy mom, she was also the CEO of her own company since 2004. She sold her business and recently left the corporate world.

She currently serve as Operations Manager at M & S Home Health Care.  Amy regard it as another way she is contributing her passion in caring for the seniors and people in need of homecare.

She has been involved with Laotian America Society since 2003 and  served as the President in 2014. She volunteered with Habitat for Humanity; Feed the Hungry, Aids walk, Susan G Komen Walk, TEA WALK, United Way as well as many activities such as Angel Trees.


Estrella Cramer

Director
Corporate Supplier Diversity
UPS

Estrella Cramer is the Corporate Supplier Diversity Director in UPS. She has more than 27 years of service across the different business units/functions in UPS including Finance, Procurement, Marketing, Product Development and Supply Chain. She was the Asia Pac Sarbanes Oxley Audit Coordinator for all UPS locations in Asia in 2004.

Estrella is the Chairperson of the UPS Asian Business Resource Group Community Connections Committee. She serves in the board of several organizations and an active member in various Advisory Councils.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including DiversityPlus Magazine 2016 Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity, 2014/2016 Corporate Women of Achievement from YWCA, 2013-2015, GAT 25 Most Influential Asian American in Georgia by Georgia Asian Times, 2014 OCA National Corporate and Community Achievement Award and Outstanding Georgia Citizen by the Secretary of State.

Estrella graduated Cum Laude from the University of St. Thomas in Manila Philippines and pursued an MBA degree in Iona College, New York.


Cherish Dela Cruz

Attorney at Law
De la Cruz Law, LLC

Cherish is a founding member of the Georgia Filipino-American Bar (GFAB) and is actively involved numerous Filipino associations. She is actively involved with the Georgia Asian Pacific Bar Association (GAPABA) where she chaired the Judicial Committee in 2015 and currently serves as the Executive Secretary since 2016.  She also serves as the Legal Advisor for the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce.  Cherish is also the President-elect at GAPABA.  She is well respected in the community and is known to be very compassionate while being effective.


Howie Ewe

President & Owner, Sweet Hut Bakery & Café and Food Terminal
Co-owner, Top Spice Thai & Malaysian Cuisine

Howie’s personal motto has always been “enough is not enough”. Howie applies this philosophy to his family, his work and his community.

Howie inspires all those who work around him to never be satisfied with the status quo. His leadership led Sweet Hut Bakery and Café to be the one of the fastest growing and popular Asian Bakery in Georgia, employing over 160 employees to date. Sweet Hut was also awarded the Model Business of the year by city of Doraville.

Howie’s relentless effort to always give back to community, sponsoring the local high schools and universities events, local nonprofit organizations, and supporting county police department makes Sweet Hut a strong community partner.


Holly Geerdes

Attorney at law
Geerdes and Associates

Geerdes has been a lawyer since 2000 and in private practice since 2005. During those first five years, she served as a supervisor on appeals at the Georgia Supreme Court, where she established herself as one of the premier trial and appellate attorneys in the state, winning several important cases. As a result, from 2001 to 2005, she received the prestigious “Case of the Year” award in Georgia for her winning representations at the Georgia Supreme Court.

As an undergraduate at the University of Iowa, Geerdes received dual degrees in business and political science, before getting her law degree at the University of Minnesota.

She was named “Outstanding Young Lawyer” in 2004 by the State Bar of Georgia in recognition of her accomplishments. She has also been appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court to serve as a mentor for law students transitioning into the practice of law. In 2006, she was named Top 14 under 40 Attorneys by the Fulton Daily Report and Super Lawyer on the Rise in 2007, chosen by lawyers and judges throughout the state.

“I’ve always been a champion for the underdog, and smarter, more competitive and skilled than most. I have always believed that this is a gift that should be used for good,” she says, explaining why she became a lawyer.”

Geerdes’ practice focuses on business litigation and estate planning. One of the largest litigation cases dealt with a multi-million-dollar dispute. On February 2017, Geerdes and Associates was named Law Firm of the Month by Attorney at Law magazine.

She feels most rewarded when she gets a win for her clients. During an interview, Geerdes mentioned: “I hate to lose. I love when you can get your clients their rights. But it’s a little anti-climactic after a win. You need to get intrinsic satisfaction by just caring about your clients.”


Ric Hubler

President
National Association of Chinese Americans (NACA)

Ric has served as President of NACA since 2015. He led the organization’s effort in their programming, operational, and hosting of visiting delegation from China to Atlanta. His work at NACA has helped foster better understanding and improved relationship between Georgia and China at cultural and diplomatic level.

Ric has previously served as the Director of Global Commerce business growth at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce since 2007. Rice was responsible for programs to increase international trade by helping expand their business in overseas market.

He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and is a native of Toledo, Ohio, and has lived in the metro Atlanta area since 1996. He currently resides in Dunwoody, and has been active in several local charities and community organizations, including: Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Habitat for Humanity, Hands on Atlanta, KaBoom! and the Woodruff Arts Center.


Victoria Huynh

Vice President of Social Services and Advocacy
Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc.

Victoria Huynh is Vice President of Social Services and Advocacy at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc. (CPACS), the first and largest Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) organization that serves immigrant, refugee, and underprivileged communities in the South. She began her career at CPACS as a high school student in the youth program. In her current position, she leads the development and implementation of social services and advocacy programs. She was instrumental in the formation of several CPACS programs, such as the Affordable Care Act Outreach Program and the Substance Abuse Prevention Program.

Victoria actively advocates on behalf of AAPI communities and populations with limited English proficiency (LEP) through her membership on various local and state community groups, including Immigrant Hope-Atlanta, Delta Phi Lambda Sorority, Gwinnett Multicultural Advisory Committee, Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Georgia AAPI Community Coalition, Georgia Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Steering and LEP Subcommittee, National Aim for Equity Coalition, Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies, Atlanta Regional Commission Millennial Advisory Panel, Cross Keys Task Force, Cross Keys Sustainability Neighborhood Initiative, and AAPI Task Force. She was named “Outstanding Georgia Citizen” by the Secretary of State in 2014 and is honored with GAT’s 25 Most Influential Asian American in Georgia award in 2015.


Debra Lam

Managing Director
Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation
Georgia Tech

Debra Lam is the Managing Director of Smart Cities and Inclusive innovation for Georgia Tech, a newly created role to drive smart cities and urban innovation work across the university and beyond. Prior to this, she served as Pittsburgh’s first ever Chief of Innovation & Performance where she oversaw all technology, sustainability, performance and innovation functions of city government. She crafted the city’s first strategic plan for innovation, Inclusive Innovation Roadmap. She has been a receipt of various awards, including one of the top 50 Women in Technology nationally. She has worked and lived in New York, the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and University of California, Berkeley.


Shandry Law

Co-founder & Entrepreneur
Farmer’s Basket Restaurant

Shandry Law is an accomplished and successful entrepreneur in the metro Atlanta restaurant industry. She and her husband are proud owners of the popular Farmer’s Basket Restaurant, a mall-based food court restaurant chain that serves great fresh Southern Food with stores in major malls in Atlanta, including Lenox Square, Cumberland Mall, Perimeter Mall, North Point Mall, Mall of Georgia, Southlake Mall, Town Center at Cobb and one in Riverchase Galleria in Alabama. Shandry Law is an active philanthropist in the Chinese community in metro Atlanta and Georgia. She supports various Chinese Community organizations and is a Board Member in CCC (Chinese Community Center), CBAA (Chinese Business Association of Atlanta), Kwong Tung Association of Atlanta and the Chair of the Board of CACPG (Chinese American Cultural Performing Group).


Richard Li

President
Chinese Business Association of Atlanta (CBAA)

Richard Li is a senior IT executive with CONA Service, LLC (Coca-Cola) as Senior Group Manager. He is responsible for Coca-Cola North America bottlers SAP and Infrastructure Operations.  Prior to Coca-Cola, Li held positions as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for RGE Group in China, Senior Vice President and CIO for OFS, Lucent Technologies and AT&T.

Li currently serves as the president of the Chinese Business Association of Atlanta. He has been heavily involved in the business community, has been promoting Asian/Chinese businesses and cultures to the mainstream. He is passionate about serving his business association members and has contributed to the business and economic development of the area. He has organized events and activities to enhance business development, collaborations and exchanges among local businesses and between US and China.

Li is actively promoting and attracting foreign investors to invest in the Greater Atlanta area. He has made positive contribution strengthening the relationship between U.S. and China through economic, technology and cultural exchanges.

Li is also passionate about community services and philanthropy to help people in need. In 2016, he help established a trust fund and organized a massive fund raising campaign helped raised about $250,000 for a family in need.

 

Bin Liu
CEO
SimpleFLOORS

Bin Liu is CEO of SimpleFLOORS which offers all hardwood, laminate floors, strand-woven bamboo floors, cork, carpet and LVT with nationwide home delivery. SimpleFLOORS is a privately held, self-funded, Atlanta-based nationwide flooring retailer, with over 20 showroom locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Bin is a selfless promoter to foreign companies looking to relocate and expand into Georgia. She regularly hosts delegations for the State of Georgia and has served as a business leader reference. She is also an active member of Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

Jiha Moon
Artist

Jiha Moon originate from DaeGu, Korea and currently works in Georgia. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Her works have been acquired by Asia Society, New York, NY, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA, The Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC, Smithsonian Institute, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, Weatherspoon Museum of Art, Greensboro, NC and The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA.  Known for combining traditional Asian landscape-painting techniques with American Modern and Pop art influences, Jiha’s colorful compositions blur the lines between East and West to speak to the cultural pluralism of contemporary society.


Kathryn Negrelli, PhD
Assistant Professor of Japanese Language
Kennesaw State University

Dr. Negrelli received her Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education from the University of Georgia. She worked as Director of Development and Programming at the Japan-America Society of Georgia, and has taught Japanese at Kansai Gaidai University (Osaka, Japan), The Georgia Institute of Technology, Oglethorpe University, Agnes Scott College, and Georgia Perimeter College before she joined the faculty of Kennesaw State University. She is coordinator of the Japanese Program, and has led two study abroad programs to Japan. Her research interests include 2nd language acquisition, foreign language pedagogy, and technology in the foreign language classroom.

Widely known for her effort to promote Japanese language and culture, Dr. Negrelli has partnered with Consulate General of Japan, Japan-America Society, and Georgia Teachers of Japanese over the years to promote better understanding between Georgia and Japan.


Bee Nguyen
Founder & Executive Director
Athena Warehouse

Bee Nguyen founded Athena’s Warehouse in 2009. The organization is a product of her love for women and girls and entrepreneurship. Her prior experiences include work with Boat People SOS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and most recently the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. She graduated from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies with a Master of Public Administration in 2012.

In addition to serving as the Executive Director for Athena’s, Bee is a member of the Atlanta Regional Board Millennial Committee, a mentor for the Wren’s Nest, and a fellow with the 2015 Georgia Women Policy Institute program. She also hosts and facilitates a series of racial justice conversations What We Talk About When We Talk About Race.

Sam Park
House Representative
Georgia House District 101

Sam Park represents District 101 in the House and is the only Asian American legislator serving in the Georgia Capitol. Sam currently serves as a member of industry and labor committee, intergovernmental coordination committee, and small business development committee.

He is a strong advocate of minority community including the LGBT community.  Sam won the district by defeating an incumbent on issues relating on healthcare, economy, transportation, immigration, and education.

Sam earned a law degree from Georgia State University and has interned with Georgia House and Senate Democratic Causes. In 2013, he received a Fellowship in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law where he obtained a Masters in law from American University Washington College of Law in Washington, DC.


Eleanor Mae Pascual

President
Asian/Pacific American Council, Georgia (APAC)

Eleanor Mae Pascual is a native of the Philippines and has been a Georgia resident for more than thirty-eight years.  A familiar face in the Asian American community, Eleanor has served on the Board of Directors of the Asian/Pacific-American Council of Georgia (APAC) for several years, including as Vice President and Secretary.  She is a longtime active member of the Filipino-American Association of Greater Atlanta (Fil-Am), having served in various leadership roles, including as Fil-Am President.

Eleanor is on the Board of Directors of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia, and served as PACCGA president in 2014 and 2015.  She is also Community Affairs Director of Makabayan Georgia, Inc., a non-profit Filipino-American foundation, and a board member of the Philippine American Center of Georgia, Inc.  Eleanor relishes the role of “bridge-builder” between the Fil-Am community and the larger AAPI community in Georgia.

A musician by avocation, Eleanor has served for many years in music ministry – as a soloist, choir member, organist/pianist, and music director.  Eleanor is currently employed as a paralegal with the Corporate Law Department of State Farm Insurance Companies.  She was recognized by State Farm with a Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016, in recognition of her various volunteer efforts in the community.

Xuan Lan Tran
President
Vietnamese Women Association of Georgia

Xuan Lan Tran currently serves as President of Vietnamese Women Association of Georgia. She was born and raised in Vietnam. Tran immigrated to the United States and has resides in Georgia since 1991.  As a successful entrepreneur and owner of Georgia Beauty School in Norcross, she has helped thousands of women to gain specialized skills and becomes successful independent entrepreneurs themselves. Tran regularly volunteers along with her students at the annual APAC Health Fair in Clarkston.  They provide free haircuts and hair styling to newly arrived refugees and immigrants living in the area.  Tran also earned the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the American Community of Georgia in 2015 for her volunteerism, service, and dedication to the Asian community.

 

Binh “Benny” Truong
Board member
United Vietnamese American Community

Binh “Benny” Truong considers himself a “socialpreneur,” an eco-activist, and advocate for the future of the Vietnamese American community. Benny came to the United States as a boat person in 1984.  He greatly appreciated his new adopted country for the abundance of liberty and opportunities given to him. And in turn he would like to use his resources and business acumen to invest into nurturing and creating a new generation of Vietnamese American leaders, who he hopes would contribute and transform positively to the American society.

At the same time, through advocacy, Benny’s hopes and dreams are to transform his motherland Vietnam into a country worthy of its proud history and talents. Benny joined the National Summit of Vietnamese American Leaders at its inauguration in 2011, and has committed himself to achieving the noble causes of the organization, which are “to engage leaders in open dialogues about critical issues facing the Vietnamese-American community; develop shared strategies and work collaboratively to advance the community through political engagement, economic development and community building.”

Benny is currently board member of the Millennial Leadership Academy – MLA and United Vietnamese American Community (UVAC). He is an active crusader of leadership and was responsible for the successful recruiting of students in the inaugural semester of MLA. He consistently talks about and promote the need for mainstream leadership development. He also is a regular title sponsors to the Asian Student associations at all the local universities and colleges.

 


Rajan Vedak

Vice President
Triumph Worldwide, Inc.

Rajan earned a Master’s degree in International Management from American Graduate School of International Management, Glendale, Arizona. Rajan is currently the Vice President of Triumph Worldwide, Inc promoting commercial and trade activities between India and United States.

He represented Georgia based companies several times at expos in Mumbai and New Delhi, under auspicious of SUSTA (Southern United States Trade Association), an off shoot of Department of Agriculture, State of Georgia. Products promoted in India were Georgia grown pecans, peanuts, honey, jellies among other products.

Founding Member of Maharashtra Mandal of Atlanta, a 4,000 member organization in Atlanta working on promoting the cultural heritage among the NRIs in Atlanta. He had served twice as a President of the organization.

He also served as a Treasurer of Indian American Cultural Association (IACA), the oldest Indian Cultural organization in Atlanta. Under his guidance, IACA had one of the largest Festival of Indian celebration which was attended by more than 10000 people.

Rajan is one of the three leaders (permanent positions) of Indian Professionals Network (IPN) that meets on a monthly basis. IPN was founded by the late Dr. Narsi Narasimhan and helps to bring the professionals from all walk of life together and create a networking platform. IPN has a membership of around 10,000 members. The monthly meeting organized invites CEOs, Community leaders, State Representatives, Entrepreneurs to interact with the IPN members.

He is one of the core committee members of International Yoga Day, Atlanta which has been celebrating the event successfully in last 2 years. The event is attended by more than 1000 people and is an initiative to bring multiple organizations together to organize the event. He has been playing a crucial role managing the Sponsorship and Logistics for the event.

 

Li Zheng, PhD
Founder & President
Techtop Industries, Inc.

Li obtained his BS degree in Management from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1991 and a Ph.D. degree in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1997. After graduated from Notre Dame, Li spent over 10 years working on various water resources and sustainable development projects in the western United States, Northern China, Tibet Plateau, and the mountainous regions of Nepal and India.

Over last five years, Li has returned to his family business, founded and operated Techtop Industries Inc. in Norcross with a focus on product innovation and resilient market-building. Li has been active within local Chinese-American community organizations since he moved to Atlanta in 2008.

His passion has been working with young professionals and to provide mentoring advise. Li has served Vice Chair to led the mentorship program at National Association of Chinese Americans (NACA). He has dedicated countless hours of one-on-one coaching to develop next generation of Asian American leaders. He is widely known for his humility and not seeking limelight for his volunteerism in the community.