In the spirit of 2019 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 commit-tee comprises of community, civic, and media representatives.

 

Minako Oki Ahearn
International Charter Academy of Georgia
Founder and Governing Board President/Chair

Having spent her early life between Japan, America, and Europe, Minako knows firsthand the difficulties and the great benefits of living in more than one culture. Throughout her career, she has striven to provide similar experiences to others. She started up a Dual Language program and pioneered service-learning and peace-education initiatives in Atlanta in 2004.

Minako believes in a future of peaceful international cooperation, where individuals from different cultures interact with open hearts and minds. Having worked both in the classroom and in administrative roles as principal, her ideals are matched by the hands-on experience of running an educationally-sound and financially-viable school.

She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in International Law from the International Christian University in Japan in 1982, a Bachelor of Music from Southern Methodist University in Texas in 1986 and a Master's Degree in Education from Central Michigan University in 2005. She has two children: a son in San Francisco and a daughter in Washington DC. She now lives in LaGrange with her husband and plans to teach Japanese at LaGrange College in the Fall.


Thip Athakhanh

Owner, Snackboxe Bistro

Thip's passion for Lao food and culture sparked during her honeymoon to Laos in 2016. In her own words, “That trip was a transformation. This was home, and I felt deeply connected to everything and everyone in Laos.”

Thip's family has been providing Lao/Thai cuisine within the state of Georgia but none bears the “Lao” branding. Her aunts and cousin owns several “Thai” restaurants and have been donating their culinary expertise, time, money and donations to local communities and temples. After her former employer closed its door, she knew it was time to embark on her new journey.

Her sheer determination, drive and persistence scored her “Chef of the Year” and “Atlanta Best New Restaurant” among other accolades. Thip also host an annual “Operation Christmas Child” at her restaurant. She has undisputedly put “Lao” food on the map in ATL!! A second location coming to you in the fall at Battery Park.

Dr. Hansen Chang, MD
Internal Medicine & Acupuncture
Community Volunteer

Born in Taiwan, Dr. Hansen Chang immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 to attend high school in Miami. He adapted quickly to the new culture and language, which enabled him to earn a double degree in Computer Science and Chemistry at the University of Miami. He graduated from University Of Miami – School of Medicine and specializes in internal medicine and acupuncture.

Outside of his practice, Dr. Chang devotes his spare time to providing medical care to the less fortunate and spending time with his family. In addition to organizing a monthly health fair at Sheltering Arms in Chamblee, GA, Dr. Chang also served as chair/physician board member in the DeKalb Board of Health and medical advisor to the Community Health Outreach Program in Atlanta. He is an active member of the American College of Physicians and the Chinese American Lion's Club of Atlanta. Dr. Chang currently serves as the Vice President of Chinese-American Lions Club of Atlanta.

Allen Chen
Senior Vice President, Bank of America
Chairman, National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP)

Allen Chen is a Senior Vice President at Bank of America within the Co-Brand and Affinity Products Organization. Allen has over 15 years of experience in the Financial Services industry and currently manages the second largest Co-Brand/Affinity credit card portfolio at Bank of America. Outside of his day job at Bank of America, he manages a Enterprise Chapter of an Asian-Focused Employee Resource Group which serves over 8,000 Members. Allen is a graduate of Kennesaw State University, receiving his Bachelors in Business Administration. As the current President and Chairman of the Board for NAAAP Atlanta, Allen firmly believes that NAAAP is the premier leadership organization of Asian American professionals. His vision is to bring the community together as a central voice to build upon the pillars in which are the foundation of NAAAP.

Anne Chen
TMP, Corporate, Association and International Sales Manager
Explore Gwinnett

Anne’s role at Explore Gwinnett is to increase destination awareness, generate new meetings and conventions and create new, satisfied clients while servicing the existing client base. The ultimate goal is to generate hospitality business, create economic impact for Gwinnett County and ensure clients have a memorable, authentic Gwinnett experience.

Being fluent in Mandarin has allowed her not only to drive substantial new business to Gwinnett, but it has also created unique partnerships for the organization with the Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism’s China Initiative, Partnership Gwinnett and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Explore Gwinnett has worked to educate and train hoteliers and attractions on the needs of international clients, and several of the hotels have gone through official training programs as a result, allowing them to cater to the Asian market.

Besides being a very busy working mother of two, she serves on multiple boards and committees, including Leadership Gwinnett’s Alumni Committee, Positive Youth and Family Development, Atlanta Asian Film Festival, and the Rotary Club of Sugarloaf. Anne is very passionate about serving and giving back to the community, and a graduate of the 2016-2017 Leadership Gwinnett class. She was recognized as a member of Connect Association magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2018.


Ben Chestnut

Co-founder and CEO
MailChimp

Ben Chestnut is co-founder and CEO of Mailchimp, the leading marketing platform for small businesses. Headquartered in Atlanta since 2001, Mailchimp is privately held and profitable, with nearly 1,000 employees and millions of global users. In 2017, Mailchimp was named Company of the Year by Inc. Magazine and recognized as one of the world’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. Ben learned about small business from his Thai mom, who ran a hair salon from the family's kitchen in Georgia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design from Georgia Tech and was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2016.

Jacqui Chew
CMO-in-Residence
Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)

As ATDC’s CMO-in-Residence , Chew serves as a marketing strategy advisor to companies in the ATDC Accelerate and ATDC Signature portfolios.

Chew is a veteran of Georgia’s innovation ecosystem. In the last 20 years, she launched dozens of products and companies and helped startups raise more than $70 million in capital.

Additionally, Chew is the managing director of iFusion and licensee and organizer of the new TEDxAtlanta, a merger of TEDxPeachtree and TEDxAtlanta to form Georgia’s largest TEDx group. She is a sought after speaker on digital strategy, entrepreneurship and integrated marketing and has spoken at conferences in the United States as well as Singapore and China. Her work in entrepreneurship with women and people of color has been recognized by her peers. She was named a “Game Changer” by Spelman College in the 2015 Women of Color Conference.

EunSook Choi
Chief Executive Officer,
Korean Television Network (KTN)

Eunsook Choi is a natural leader with a heart to serve the community. She has combined her drive to serve with enterprise. This has brought about her founding of Joynus Care which is an in-home elderly care service provider for a rapidly growing number of the aging Korean community.

More recently and the primary basis for the nomination, EunSook purchased and continues to invest in the Korean Television Network (KTN). Her leadership is transforming the network with locally based content that is critical and relevant to the Korean community of Georgia. Under her stewardship, KTN is becoming more relevant and beneficial to informing and uniting the Korean community, especially to especially the elderly that depend on it for information and entertainment.

Eunsook plays an important role in the Korean community as her vision and desire to serve, inform, and unify come at a critical time when the metro Atlanta's Korean population is rapidly growing.


Lilia Hagler

Director, Philippine Nurses of Georgia
Advisor, Filipino American Association of Greater Atlanta

A longtime member of the Filipino-American Association of Greater Atlanta, she has served in several leadership roles, rising to be president in 2017 and advisor in 2019. In relation to her profession, she is a founding member and first treasurer of the Philippine Nurses Association of GA, (PNAGA). With 4 other past presidents of PNAGA, she continues to serve the Filipino community in her field, forming the Philippine Nurses of Georgia Foundation, to encourage and provide scholarships to nursing students.

She regularly volunteers her professional services at Health Fairs and conduct health Classes in Asian Communities and church groups. Lilia, shares much of her time, talent and resources in activities not only to promote health, but also to promote passionately, share and perpetuate the Philippine Culture, the customs and traditions within the Filipino community and the rest of Atlanta and Georgia.  Recognized as a dedicated nurse in its truest meaning, she received the Florence Nightingale Award.

Yoonie Kim
Senior Project Manager,
Georgia Department of Economic Development

Yoonie Kim serves as a senior project manager for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, focusing on attracting international investment into Georgia. Having joined the department in 2006, Yoonie has located 79 foreign direct investment projects into Georgia, creating 8,686 international jobs and over $3 Billion in capital investment. These companies include SK Innovation, Hanwha Q Cells, LG Hausys, Hyundai Powertech, Doosan Infracore, SK C&C, Samsung LED, Hyundai Heavy Industry, Johnson Controls, Fortune Group as well as numerous small and medium sized international companies.

Yoonie also serves many other capacities within the department, including leading the Governor’s & Commissioners’ delegations to Korea; organizing international events; hosting international delegations in Georgia; leading numerous international investment promotion seminars and conferences; attending trade shows and missions; assisting with Georgia’s efforts to help Kia Motors establish their US presence and recruiting their multiple supplier companies; guiding the department with cultural protocols in the Asia region; and developing marketing and communications materials to promote Georgia and its products internationally.

Yoonie earned her Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering and a Master of Arts in International Relations from HanYang University in South Korea. She is fluent in English, Korean and Japanese. Yoonie is on the Board of Directors at the Korea South-East U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

Ben Ku
Gwinnett County Board of Commissioner (District 2)

Ben Ku was first elected to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in 2018. District 2 includes Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Norcross, Tucker, and Lilburn. Ben is the first Asian American ever elected to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners.

A Georgia native, Ben is the grandson of Chinese immigrants who moved to Atlanta to help engineer the original MARTA heavy rail system. Ben has more than 20 years of entrepreneurial and software development experience. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with highest honors and is active in the Mentor Jackets program offering guidance to Georgia Tech students. Ben has served as president of his homeowners’ association where he helped to re-engage the neighborhood, improve its website and communications, and build cash reserves.

In 2016, Ben participated in the Gwinnett 101 Citizens Academy, which sparked his interest in County government. He helped create and then served on the Gwinnett 101 Alumni Advisory Board. He received the Gwinnett 101 Alumni Distinguished Service Award for Most Volunteered Hours in 2017.


Shandry Law

Owner & Co-Founder,
Farmer's Basket

Shandry grew up in Hong Kong. She graduated from Hong Kong Baptist University majoring in interior design and had a successful career as a hand bag designer. After she married her husband, she gave up that career to restart her life in United States in hopes of better lives for her children.

Shandry is an accomplished and successful entrepreneur in the Metro Atlanta restaurant industry. She and her husband are now proud owners of Farmer’s Basket, a popular restaurant that she founded over 20 years ago. It has restaurants located all over Georgia, such as Lenox Square Mall and Perimeter Mall, to restaurants located out of state such as Riverchase Galleria Mall in Alabama.

Shandry is also an active philanthropist in the Chinese community in Georgia and especially in Metro Atlanta. She supports and fundraises many organizations, from disaster relief to scholarship foundations. She regularly sponsors communities such as senior associations, various City Council and Congressman elections, the Dekalb County Police Department, and many other government departments. She is currently the president of Chinese-American Lions Club of Atlanta and the Chairwoman of CACPG. She is also the Vice President of the Kwong Tong Association (KTA), Chinese Community Center of Atlanta (CCC), and OCA. Shandry is a board member of CBAA, NACA, and several organizations.

Anne Marie Logarta
President, Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Georgia

An active community leader and currently serving as President of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia for 2019. Her role is to promotes trade and investments between the State of Georgia and in the Philippines. She has also been elected to lead the Filipino-American community to organize the “Kalayaan Celebration” or the Philippine Independence Day Celebration in 2019 in Georgia and the Southeast. An annual statewide celebration, it is a six-month project requiring strategic vision, planning, creativity, fundraising skills and the ability to bring together and manage Filipino-American groups and organizations for the biggest annual gathering of Filipino-Americans in the Southeast.

Masako Lisa Leong
Director, Sales and Marketing
Sonesta Gwinnett Place Atlanta

Lisa is a fast rising leader in the hospitality industry and has led the Sonesta Gwinnett Place Hotel Atlanta's sales team to great success. She maintain a high energy temperament and goes above and beyond for guests/clients. Lisa is always passionate and career driven. She works closely with her staff and brings the culture of hospitality to her team. Lisa has true vested interest in the success of her employees and the local community. She maintain a collaborative and supportive partnerships in the community.

Maggie Mers
Founder & CEO, MBM International Logistics

A successful entrepreneur who started her logistic company in 2004. Her business has evolved to a full-fledged logistic service services in transportation, warehousing, and customs brokerage targeting Asian community with emphasis on Sino-US trade. Maggie is active in the Chinese business community where she is currently a treasurer and a board of director for Chinese Business Association of Atlanta (CBAA).

Maggie is also a board member of National Association of Chinese Americans (NACA). Despite her busy business commitments, Maggie finds time to give back to the community by helping with fundraising activities for the unfortunate and several other worthy philanthropic efforts.

Helen Nguyen
Metro Atlanta Chapter-President,
Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA)

Helen Nguyen serves as the 2018, 2019 Atlanta Chapter' Allen ChenPresident for the Asian Real Estate Association of America, a nonprofit organization committed to advocating for homeownership opportunities within the Asian-American community. She has been involved with AREAA on their leadership board since 2016. Amongst Helen's greatest accomplishments were the noticeable growth of the Atlanta chapter since the beginning of her Presidency term and over 25 small events of networking, social functions, community outreach and continuing education.

Byung “BJay” Pak
U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Georgia

Byung J. “BJay” Pak was nominated by President Trump to be the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia on July 27, 2017, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 28, 2017. He is returning to the office, having served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division from 2002 to 2008.

BJay has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career. He has been consistently recognized by Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business; as a “Super Lawyer” by Atlanta Magazine; as one of the Best Lawyers Under 40 by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association; and as one of “13 Georgia Lawyers Under 40 to Watch” by the Fulton County Daily Report; 25 Most Influential Asian Americans in Georgia by Georgia Asian Times; Georgia's Best 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend Magazine, and as “Role Model of the Year 2013” by News & Post.

From January 2011 to January 2017, BJay served in the Georgia General Assembly as a State Representative. He served three terms and voluntarily retired in January 2017. As State Representative, BJay has served as a Deputy Majority Whip, as the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, as Chair of the Subcommittee on Crimes Against Person, Property, and Public Administration, as Secretary of the Code Revision Committee, and served as a member of the Health and Human Services Committee. He was also a member of the Ways and Means Committee. For his policy work, BJay has won recognition from numerous organizations and has been recognized by James Magazine in its “Most Influential Legislators” list.

Prior to starting his current post, BJay served as a member of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s Judicial Nominating Commission, and the Criminal Justice Reform Council. He was appointed by the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia as a member of the U.S. Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel, and was appointed by the Justices of the Georgia Supreme Court as a Member of Georgia Commission on Interpreters.

Danny Pian
Vice President-Elite Banking,
East West Bank, Atlanta

Danny Pian has over 20 years of banking industry experience, specializing in commercial and residential mortgage lending, commercial banking services, and Treasure Management services. Danny has a deep compassion of serving the community, he has been actively involved with the community organizations for more than 15 years. In addition to the leadership roles at the Chinese Community Center and the Monte Jade Science and Technology Association, Danny has served as a Board Member of the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce. He was in the inaugural class of the Leadership Johns Creek. Danny was the president of Taiwanese Golf Association, and vice president of National Association of Chinese Americans.

Raymond Partolan
Immigration Paralegal, Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC

Raymond Partolan is an Immigration Paralegal at Kuck Immigration Partners LLC working primarily on family based immigration cases. Before joining Kuck Immigration Partners, LLC, Mr. Partolan spent several years as the Program Associate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, a nonprofit law and advocacy center for Asian Americans across the Southeast. There, he was a BIA Accredited Representative and prepared family immigration petitions for the most underserved populations.

For over seven years, Raymond has been a fearless advocate for immigrant and refugee communities as a DACA recipient himself. In 2013, he was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the University System of Georgia challenging its decision to bar DACA recipients from receiving in-state tuition at Georgia schools. He has lobbied for immigration reform at the local, state, and federal levels of government, traveling the country to share his immigrant story.  Raymond was also part of the young immigrants group that was featured in the Grammy nominated jazz album “American Dreamers” at the 2019 Grammy Awards.

Sheikh Rahman
Georgia Senate District 5

Senator Sheikh Rahman, a Democrat, is the first immigrant to serve in the Georgia State Senate. Elected in 2018, he represents the 5th Senate District in the heart of Gwinnett — Georgia’s most diverse county. In the Senate, Sen. Rahman serves on the Agriculture and
Consumer Affairs, Government Oversight, Special Judiciary, State Institutions and Property, and Urban Affairs committees. Sen. Rahman grew up in Bangladesh, where his country was devastated by the Bangladesh Liberation War of Independence in 1971. At age 13, Sen. Rahman was kidnapped at gunpoint as a prisoner of war. In 1981, after
graduating from high school, Sen. Rahman came to America to attend Central Piedmont Community College. In order to pay for his college tuition, he worked as a dishwasher making $3.35 an hour.

In 1995, after a 14-year process, Sen. Rahman became a U.S. citizen and finished his undergraduate degree in Economics and Global Studies at the University of Georgia,
where he also served as a Student Senator and President of the Global Studies Association. After school, Sen. Rahman worked his way up through the ranks of the restaurant
industry, becoming a corporate executive at Pizza Hut, Dominos, and The Kroger Company. He then embarked on a successful career in real estate, managing rental properties across Georgia.

Sen. Rahman began his political career as a student in community college when a friend invited him to work on a North Carolina gubernatorial campaign.  He is a member of the Democratic National Committee and was the first Muslim elected to the Democratic National Committee’s Executive Committee. He is also a member of the DNC’s Labor, Asian-American and LGBT caucuses.

Ann Rithmyxay
Director of Home Healthcare Services
M&S Homecare Services

Ann Rithmyxay is an inspiring leader with entrepreneurial instinct and deep compassion for community improvement. She co-founded and served as President of the Georgia chapter of the Laotian American Society, where she united the Laotian community into an impressive network, working together for the mutual purpose of cultural preservation and advancement.

With her passion and care for the welfare of the community, she was inspired to introduce home care program to the most underserved communities such as Laotian-American, Cambodian-American and Vietnamese-American. Through M&S Homecare Services, Ann relieved some major burdens among families when facing aging or illness. In addition, Ann is generous with her philanthropy and time in sponsoring local Buddhist temples.


Aisha Yaqoob

Policy Director, Asian American Advancing Justice Atlanta

Aisha Yaqoob is the Policy Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta. Aisha became familiar with Advancing Justice in 2016 during her work as the founder of the Georgia Muslim Voter Project, an initiative to increase voter registration and turnout in the Muslim community in Georgia. Aisha has worked and volunteered with various Atlanta area nonprofit organizations. She is involved in her local community through various initiatives and has served advisory roles in civic organizations.

As Policy Director, she works hard to defend the rights of Asian Americans at the local, state, and national level. She is passionate about voting rights, access to healthcare and education, and immigration. Aisha believes in upholding the civil rights and civil liberties for all people, especially those whom have been historically underrepresented.

Daniel H. Yim
President, Kobayashi Consumer Products

Daniel Yim has been a native of Dalton, Georgia almost his entire life. Over 50 years ago, his parents, Chang Bin and Alice Yim, arrived in the United States from South Korea and Hong Kong respectively. They married and eventually settled in Dalton, Georgia, where they continue to live today.

In 1989, the Yims started a company called Heatmax, Inc. and began distributing HotHands warmers in the U.S. In 1991, Daniel joined the company and help develop the manufacturing operations in Dalton, Georgia and expand the markets of the company. Daniel and the management team were able to take Heatmax from a company that imported and distributed recreational heat packs and transform the company to a manufacturing company providing not only recreational warmers but also medical therapeutic heat devices. Sales tripled over an 8-year period of time.

In the mid-2000's, a Japanese-based pharmaceutical company called Kobayashi, acquired Heatmax. Kobayashi introduced new technologies that improved efficiency and speed of production. Today, nearly half a million warmers are produced every day in the Dalton, Georgia facility. That totals 150 million warmers a year.

Daniel serves on the Board of Directors for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank (CAFB), whose mission is to eliminate hunger and promote better nutrition in the North Georgia and Chattanooga area. He also serves as director for Education is Essential Foundation, whose mission is to help marshal human and financial resources to the educational needs of the community.

Henry Yu
President, Hong Kong Association of Atlanta

Henry Yu is the President of the Hong Kong Association of Atlanta, a non-profit group promoting business between HK/China and The Southeast USA. Henry is a global business executive having covered Emerging Markets and in particular Asia Pacific for over 30 years. A 36-year banking veteran, Henry is well-versed in all facets of banking and has had clients in Asia. He is also the presiding Chief Operating Officer of Asian Investors Consortium, a fund that invests in Asia in clean/green tech and medical industries.  Henry believes in sharing and volunteered services having helped NACA for over 15 years in various capacities and notably founded NACA Mentorship in 2004.

Tyler Yu
Dean, School of Business
Georgia Gwinnett College

Dr. Yu is currently a professor of economics and the dean of the School of Business at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC). He has taught at the university level for 20 years, primarily at Mercer University, Ga. Undergraduate courses taught include principles of microeconomics, principles of macroeconomics, intermediate microeconomics, intermediate macroeconomics, international economics, quantitative analysis and methods, business statistics, multivariate applied business statistics, financial accounting, managerial accounting and cost accounting. At the graduate level he has taught managerial economics, operations management, decision theory and international economics.  Yu has published more than 30 articles in refereed journals.