Meet Our 2015 Honorees!

Interested in attending LEAP's 2015 Leadership Awards Gala this July?  Want to know more about this year's honorees? Conitnue to read more below.

In addition, Linda Akutagawa, LEAP President and CEO, will be interviewing each of our 2015 honoree in our Online Fireside Chats Webinar Series.  These webinars will cover various topics about Asian and Pacific Islander leadership and the challenges and success stories of our honorees. To register for the webinar, visit

For more information about this year's gala, visit:

Individual Awards 

xMAshida.pngMargaret Ashida (posthumously)
STEMx Executive Director, Battelle 

Margaret Ashida served as the Executive Director of the STEMx multi-state network committed to transforming science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education through local innovation and state leadership for national impact. STEMx is operated by BattelleEd, a venture of Battelle – the world’s largest independent research and development organization. Previously, Margaret led the incubation of the Empire State STEM Learning Network at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the State University of New York (SUNY) System. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, Margaret held executive positions at IBM in global workforce management and university relations. 

Her engagement with LEAP spans over 10 years, beginning with her participation in the LEAP Leadership Development Program and later extending her service on the Board of Directors. She served as Chair of the LEAP Board of Directors; a Trustee Emeritus of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology; a founding co-chair of the Workforce Alliance of the National Center for Women and IT (NCWIT); and past chair of the MentorNet Advisory Board. 


xEFlores.pngEddie Flores
President and CEO, L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
Online Fireside Chat Webinar: May 28, 2015 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

Eddie Flores is the President and CEO of L & L Hawaiian BBQ (L & L). Since his arrival in Hawaii as a sixteen old immigrant, Eddie has distinguished himself as a successful entrepreneur and a community activist. Two years after his graduation from the University of Hawaii, he unleashed his entrepreneurial spirit and formed his own real estate company. In 1976, he purchased his first L & L as a gift to his mother. Subsequently, Eddie expanded L & L from a single store into 200 restaurants during a time of unprecedented economic hardship in Hawaii.

In addition to his work at L & L, Eddie is an author, teacher and philanthropist. He is the first Asian American to receive the designation of Certified Business Intermediary and Designated Real Estate Instructor. He has authored four books and numerous articles locally and internationally.  He has taught real estate, investment, management, travel, and business appraisal courses throughout the state. He has stayed connected to his roots by establishing the Filipino Fiesta and Parade in Hawaii and fundraising for the Filipino Community Center, the largest Filipino community center outside of the Philippines. His awards include the State of Hawaii Small Business Administration - Small Businessperson of the Year, the University of Hawaii Distinguished Alumni Award, Presidential Citation for Filipino Individuals & Organizations Overseas, Junior Achievement Wall of Fame, Best in Business: Business Leadership Hawaii, Sales and Marketing of the Year, and the Hawaii Association of Realtors’ Highest Rated Instructor and Educator of the Year.


XBLee.pngWilliam Lee
Vice President of Pension and Foundation Investments
Chief Investment Officer, Kaiser Permanente
Online Fireside Chat Webinar: June 12, 2015 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT
To register for this fireside chat, visit:

Bill Lee is Vice President of Pension and Foundation Investments at Kaiser Permanente and Chief Investment Officer. He has served as chair of Kaiser Permanente Retirement Plans Investment Committee, and the Kaiser Foundation Investment Committee, since 2005. Bill oversees approximately $71 billion in defined contribution, pension and foundation assets. He managed interest rate and foreign exchange risk for Bank of America's global proprietary desks in the 1980's, then left for eight years to work as a police detective. In 1994 he returned to Bank of America, where he helped develop equity and fixed income risk models before becoming Senior Vice President and Chief Investment Officer for Bank of America's retirement plan investments. Bill served as Chief Investment Officer for the Levi Strauss Foundation and Red Tab Foundation assets as well as the Levi Strauss domestic and international retirement plans. He is a chartered financial analyst (CFA) and graduate of Harvard Business School’s Executive Leadership Program. 


David R. Barclay Alumni Leadership Award 

This year, LEAP is honoring two alumni from the Emerging Leaders Program, Ami Gandhi and Neha Gill.  These alumni are being recognized for their leadership within their organizations and their collaboration.  Their numerous collaborative efforts include the formation of the Chicago South Asian Deferred Action Coalition with the Indo-American Center and Chicago Desi Youth Rising. This coalition was formed in response to the urgent need for increased outreach and services to the South Asian undocumented immigrant community and uses an innovative, comprehensive approach that includes outreach, legal, and social services. 

They will have a joint Online Fireside Chat Webinar: May 22, 2015, 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT.


xAGandhi.pngAmi Gandhi
Executive Director, South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI)
Online Fireside Chat Webinar (with Neha Gill): May 22, 2015, 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

Ami Gandhi has served as Executive Director of South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) since 2011. SAAPRI is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization established in 2001 to improve the lives of South Asian Americans in the Chicago area, by using research to formulate equitable and socially responsible public policy recommendations. Ami previously served as the Legal Director of the Asian American Institute (AAI), now called Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago. At AAI, Ami developed and implemented legal advocacy programs relating to voting rights, redistricting, affirmative action, language access, hate crimes, and discrimination. Prior to joining AAI, Ami worked as a litigation attorney at the law firm of Freeborn & Peters LLP, where she represented individuals and companies in a wide variety of practice areas. 

Ami also serves on the Advisory Council for the City of Chicago’s Office of New Americans, the Task Force on Opportunities for DREAMers at University of Illinois at Chicago, and multiple advisory councils on language access to government services. She is the board chair of Common Cause Illinois and serves on the board of American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Ami is also a LEAP alumna of the Emerging Leaders Program and a member of the Illinois bar. She earned her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School and her B.A. in psychology and cognitive science from Indiana University.  


xNGill.pngNeha Gill
Executive Director, Apna Ghar, Inc.
Online Fireside Chat Webinar (with Ami Gandhi): May 22, 2015, 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

Neha Gill is the Executive Director of Apna Ghar, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides holistic services and conducts advocacy across immigrant communities to end gender violence. Prior to her appointment as the Executive Director in August 2013, she held several key positions within the organization and led consultations and trainings about services for survivors of gender based violence to local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), journalists, government officials, and staff of United Nations’ agencies.

Neha has worked on women’s rights issues in East Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In 2014, policies and procedures for serving survivors of gender based violence that she helped establish were formally adopted by the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq. She is also an advisory board member for From the Roots, an arts based nonprofit that fosters social entrepreneurship through cross cultural learning. Neha has been featured on WBEZ’s worldview show, Vocalo’s Feminist Wednesdays, public access television, and is cited in several studies and articles on gender violence in immigrant communities. Neha received her Master of Science degree in International Public Service and certificates in Public Policy and International NGO Management from DePaul University in Chicago, and a Bachelors degree in International Relations from Knox College in Galesburg, IL. She is an alumna of the LEAP Emerging Leaders Program.


Community Award 


GFBLogo.pngGo For Broke National Education Center
Los Angeles, CA
Online Fireside Chat Webinar with Go For Broke Executive Director, Don Nose: June 19, 2015 12:30pm-1:30pm PDT
To register for this fireside chat, visit:

The mission of the Go For Broke National Education Center is to educate the public about the responsibilities, challenges, and rights of American citizenship by using the life stories of the Japanese American soldiers of World War II.

The Go For Broke National Education Center designed and built the Go For Broke Monument, located near downtown Los Angeles, the first of its kind in the mainland United States to commemorate the heroic role of the segregated Japanese American units of World War II, including the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service, 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, 232nd Combat Engineer Company, and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.  Each year, they welcome approximately 10,000 people to the monument.  In addition, they have recorded the life stories of over 1,150 of these veterans; taught over 3,000 educators in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Maryland and Virginia; and reached over 100,000 students through their teacher trainings and web-based digital curriculum.


If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Yap at


The 2015 gala dinner celebrates LEAP’s 33 years of “Growing Leaders” and the leadership and accomplishments of individuals and organizations that exemplify LEAP’s mission to achieve full participation and equality for Asian and Pacific Islanders through leadership, empowerment, and policy. Proceeds from the event are used to develop LEAP’s innovative leadership programs, cutting-edge public policy research, and nationwide community building. Hotel Valet Parking is available, or you may choose to self park next door at the California Plaza.

July 16, 2015
Omni Hotel 251 South Olive Street Los Angeles, CA 90012



5pm VIP Reception

5:30pm Silent Auction

6pm General Reception

7pm - 9pm  Dinner Program






Grace Toy / 213.485.1422 x4117


2015 Gala Sponsors

VIP Reception Sponsor
Toyota Financial Services

Special Activities Sponsor

Executive Sponsor
Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
Kailiwai Family

LEAP Annual Contributors
Marsh & McLennan Companies
United Parcel Service (UPS)
General Motors Corporation
Hewlett-Packard Company
Southwest Airlines
spoon + fork

Corporate Sponsor
Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
The Coca-Cola Company
Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, LLP

LEAP Friend
Aratani Foundation
Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE)
Bradley Cooper and Hui O Hana Pono
Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
Chung Family
Go For Broke National Education Center
Kumamoto Associates
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
Pauline Barclay
Southern California Edison
SWL Associates
Thelma Kailiwai 
The Veng Group

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