2018 Annual Gala Dinner


Honoring George Takei, Jon M. Chu, Ronnie Chan, and Thomas McLain

Asia Society Southern California Gala Dinner

Join us for a festive evening in support of Asia Society's mission to build bridges of understanding between Asia and the world.

Our honorees this year are leaders in the arts and business, whose life work has been to forge cross-cultural ties. George Takei has broken barriers as an actor and eloquently championed Asian-American actors, Japanese Americans and other minorities seeking a more inclusive society. Jon M. Chu has directed the first studio-backed movie in 25 years to star an all-Asian cast. Ronnie Chan has led by example in developing a new ethos of philanthropy in Asia. Thomas McLain has built an international legal practice with a focus on Asia and been a leader of Asia Society for more than 12 years as a Global Trustee and Chairman of Asia Society Southern California.

Live Auction by


George Takei

George Takei has been a game changer for more than six decades as an actor and prominent advocate for social justice. His signature Star Trek role as Hikaru Sulu on the bridge of the original Starship Enterprise heralded his real-life role building bridges for Asian-American actors and many others. Imprisoned with his family in a World War II internment camp, Takei has raised awareness about injustices against Japanese Americans and championed other causes, including immigrant and LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, in the fight for an inclusive society. His acclaimed work spans television, film, radio and new media (he has his own YouTube channel) – not to mention Broadway, where he debuted in 2015 in “Allegiance,” a musical inspired by his life story. Takei is reprising his role in the play’s Los Angeles run. He is also an accomplished fiction and nonfiction author. Among his many civic roles, Takei is Chairman Emeritus and a Trustee of the Japanese American National Museum. As a President Clinton appointee, he served two terms on the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. In 2004, Emperor Akihito awarded Takei with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in recognition of his contribution to U.S.-Japan relations.

Jon M. Chu headshot

Jon M. Chu will be honored for directing the highly anticipated Crazy Rich Asians, opening nationwide on August 17. Chu is known for his visually stunning work in projects across genre, medium and budget. Whether telling a story through the language of dance in the Step Up films, music in the Justin Bieber documentary, action in the G.I. Joe: Retaliation film or magic in Now You See Me 2, Chu’s signature style bursts with energy that defines pop culture entertainment. In addition to his Hollywood studio films, Chu is recognized as an online innovator. His superhero dance series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers earned him the 2011 Pioneer Prize at the International Digital Emmy Awards, and the Chu-directed music video for Bieber’s Beauty And A Beat has over 620 million hits. He directed the CLIO-award-winning “Safety Dance” video that is played on every Virgin America flight and is an online hit, too. Chu graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Ronnie Chan Headshot

Ronnie Chan, who recently completed his tenure as Global Co-Chair of Asia Society’s Board of Trustees, will be honored for leading by example to develop a new ethos of philanthropy in Asia. As Chan built Hong Kong’s Hang Lung Group into a world-class real estate developer, he also spearheaded efforts to further educational causes, restore historical sites, including Beijing’s Forbidden City, nurtured a new generation of philanthropists among successful entrepreneurs, and founded the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society. His legacy to Asia Society includes opening the stunning Hong Kong center, which received the American Institute of Architects' top design honor in 2016, and his tenure as the first Asian to lead the Board of in Asia Society’s 62-year history. A civic and business leader in Hong Kong and China, Chan is nevertheless an Angeleno at heart. He received his MBA from the University of Southern California in 1976 and has served as a Trustee since 1995. In 2014, Chan and his wife, Barbara, pledged $20 million to USC's pioneering occupational science and therapy program. The gift is the largest in the field's history, but Chan says "it does not matter how much we donate; it matters whether the donation is meaningful." In that spirit, Chan has encouraged entrepreneurs across Asia to take steps, large and small, to help others.

Tom McLain

Thomas McLain has worked to connect the U.S. and Asia as an attorney, investment banker and private-equity investor – and as a leader of Asia Society. He is currently senior counsel at international law firm Hogan Lovells, where he brings more than 40 years of expertise in Asia to a practice that focuses on complex international and domestic business transactions and international corporate counseling. McLain began his career as a foreign law trainee at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu in Tokyo in 1974 and has maintained close ties with Japan.

He speaks Japanese, has lived, studied and worked in Japan on several occasions, and taught Japanese law at the University of Southern California Law Center. McLain was appointed by President Clinton to serve as a Commissioner of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and as a member of the U.S.-Japan Committee on Cultural and Educational Exchange. He has been active in Asia Society for 20 years – more than 12 of them serving as a Global Trustee and Chairman of Asia Society Southern California. He championed the growth of regional Asia Society centers, and his leadership was pivotal in stabilizing and rebuilding ASSC after the financial crisis. McLain has also served on the boards of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the Terry Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, his undergraduate and law school alma mater.


Vân-Ánh Võ

Vân-Ánh Võ began studying the đàn Tranh (zither) from the age of four. She graduated with distinction from the Vietnam National Acadamy of Music and won the National đàn Tranh Competition championship in 1995. She has toured over 25 countries and performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and at the 2012 Olympic Games. Since settling in the Bay area in 2001, Vân-Ánh has focused on collaborating with musicians across genres to create new works, bringing Vietnamese traditional music to a wider audience and preserving her cultural legacy through teaching. Her latest record, Three-Mountain Pass, featuring the Kronos Quartet, was selected as one of NPR’s Best 10 World Music Records of 2013. Võ recently received a $40,000 grant from the Creative Work Fund for her upcoming production,The Odyssey-from Vietnam to America.


Kara Wang Headshot

Los Angeles native Kara Wang is a bilingual and bicultural actress who has returned home after five years of working in Asia. Her credits in Asia include television shows such as Fiancé on the Hunan channel and The Diamonds Dream on the Zhejiang channel, as well as films such as Chen Kaige’s Caught in the Web and Daniel Hsia’s Shanghai Calling. Wang’s American television credits include Jane the Virgin on the CW, Gameshakers, and Journey to the East. She has also appeared in commercial spots for Toyota, Sit and Sleep, McDonald's, Kay Jewelers, just to name a few. In 2016 East West Players production, Wang played the lead role of Xi Yan in Chinglish, the acclaimed bilingual play written by Tony Award-winner David Henry Hwang.

Event Details

Sun 22 Apr 2018
6 - 9 p.m.

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049


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