About the 2023 GAPABA GALA

The Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association (GAPABA) celebrated its 30th Pearl Anniversary with its signature Annual GAPABA Gala on Thursday, May 25, 2023, in the stunning Oceans Ballroom of the Georgia Aquarium. The sold-out event achieved its largest attendance ever with over 620 registered guests, and a record-breaking 78 Sponsors and Community Partners. Prominent members of the Atlanta and national legal community convened to attend the Southeast’s premier networking event. GAPABA hosted dozens of general counsel from Fortune 1000 companies, as well as judges, elected officials, and community partners.

President Tina Dorr (Partner, Barnes & Thornburg) delivered warm welcoming remarks, and spoke movingly about how joining GAPABA only four years ago led her to fully embrace her Asian American heritage as an adult.

The Gala prominently featured Jim Kerr, Chairman of the Board of Directors, CEO and President of Southern Company Gas, who received the 2023 Diversity Champion Award. Introduced by his Southern Company Gas colleague and GAPABA Board Member Kasey Chow, she shared her heartfelt personal experience about how Kerr very intentionally reached out to provide her with support when she was still developing in her career as Senior Counsel at the company. This May, Chow was elevated to Assistant to EVP CFO and EVP CEAO.

Justice Carla Wong McMillian of the Supreme Court of Georgia received GAPABA's highest honor – the Judge Alvin T. Wong Pioneer Award. Judge Wong, Chief Judge of the State Court of DeKalb County, and the first Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Judge elected in the Southeast, presented the eponymous award himself.

Receiving the President’s Award from Tina Dorr was the Hon. Lucy Koh of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit – the first Korean American woman to serve as a federal appellate judge. Both Justice McMillian and Judge Koh shared their uniquely American stories, growing up Asian American in the deep South and rising from their humble beginnings.

Amara Sohn Walker, CNN Anchor & Correspondent, emceed the Gala, which also highlighted additional memorable Honorees, including:

  • Vanessa Allen Sutherland (EVP, Government Affairs, GC and Corporate Secretary. Phillips 66) received the Corporate Leadership Award presented by GAPABA Board Member Michael C. Wu (CLO and Corporate Secretary, Bath & Body Works).

  • Sean J. Young (Staff Attorney, Federal Public Defender, N.D. Ga.) received the GAPABA Rising Star Award, presented by GAPABA Board Member and Gala Chair Kayla Chen (Attorney, Cohen Pollock Merlin Turner, P.C.).
  • Receiving their awards in absentia were Women’s Leadership Award recipient Amy Tu (President, International and Chief Administrative Officer, Tyson Foods) and Community Impact & Allyship Award recipient Lucy Fato (EVP, GC and Global Head of Communications and Government Affairs, AIG). Both awards were presented by Hannah Kim(CLO, Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer, Neiman Marcus Group), who was last year’s recipient of the Women’s Leadership Award

Chloe Pan (U.C. Berkeley Law Class of 2024, and Editor-in-Chief, California Law Review) flew in to receive the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Law Foundation Han C. Choi Scholarship, awarded to an exceptional law student who demonstrates grit and tenacity in the face of daunting odds. Pan was introduced by GAPABA Past President Angela Hsu (Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner), who shared excerpts from Pan’s moving essay application, which described growing up in a low-income, first-generation immigrant household. Her mother, who had labored as a waitress to support the family, was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer during Pan’s final semester of college. She moved back to Michigan to be her mother’s full-time caregiver while raising her younger brother, supporting her grandparents, completing her undergraduate degree and working for the ACLU of Michigan. Later, when she matriculated to Berkeley Law, Pan moved her family with her to California so she could continue to support them while pursuing law school.

GAPABA Law Foundation Co-Chairs Bonnie Youn (Managing Director, The RMN Agency), and Bobby Woo (Partner, King & Spalding) announced the seven non-profit recipients of the 2023 Foundation grants, which received a record combined amount of over $116,000.

Foundation Board Member Samantha Harrykissoon (Public Health Analyst, CDC), spoke lovingly of the public service legacy of her late husband Hemanth Digumarthi, GAPABA Past President. Together with Raymond Tran(Associate, Seyfarth Shaw), they recognized the three law student recipients of the 2023 Digumarthi Public Interest Scholarships, who each received $5,000 for their summer internships. A portion of the Gala proceeds will benefit the 501(c)(3) Foundation, providing charitable and educational services for Georgia’s AAPI and immigrant communities.

The GAPABA Pearl Gala was a fitting celebration to mark the end of May AAPI Heritage Month.



GAPABA Gala guests are welcome to use the hotel discounted rates provided to GAPABA by the State Bar of Georgia.

Please use the booking links on their website as the special rates are pre-loaded. Please keep in mind that blackout dates apply, so some hotels might not be able to offer a discounted rate, depending on their policies and inventory. There are many hotels to choose from: 



JL Events & Association Management

Jennifer Langley, gapaba@jenniferlangleyevents.com | 404-314-3941

Gina Reilly, gina@jenniferlangleyevents.com


@2024  GAPABA    |    Established 1993


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