golden crown

Committee Members

Kumi Alderman, Executive Director
Kumi Alderman
Executive Director

Kumi Alderman worked as a Tour- Conductor based in Tokyo, Japan. She took many Japanese groups to all over the World. Kumi really enjoyed learning diffrent arts and cultures through this job. Kumi realized that people are same even they have different skin color and cultures.  Kumi has discovered a passion to educate and share Asian culture through organizing the Asian Festival and other educational events. She believes the festival and events inspires the public, especially younger generations, to learn about and appreciate the richness of traditional Asian arts and culture. She believes mutual understanding is the base of World peace. Kumi has a big DREAM to create Asian Culture Center in Knoxville which provide the out-reach program for K-12 schools and Universities. On November 20th, Consul-General Kobayashi presented the Certificate of Commendation to Ms. Kumi Alderman, Executive Director of the Asian Culture Center of TN, in recognition of her distinguished service in contributing to the deepening of mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and Knoxville through the Asian Festivals and various cultural activities. Currently Kumi is serving as a Counselor Advisory Board at Cedar Bluff Middle School, Knox County Schools Chief’s of Security Advisory Council on Diversity, The board member of Knoxville Community TV.

Samuel K. Lee, Advisor
Samuel K. Lee


Samuel K. Lee is the Chief Deputy at the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office. He has called Knox County home since 1988 and is proud to serve our community. Sam believes that we need to be tough on crime and also compassionate toward victims and the mentally disabled. He actively supports the efforts of the Family Justice Center, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, the YWCA, and is grateful to serve with our local law enforcement agencies.

Dr. Kathie Shiba, Volunteer Coordinator
Dr. Kathie Shiba
Maryville College Communication Manager

Dr. Kathie Shiba is Assistant Dean of Institutional Equity and Professor of Psychology at Maryville College. I moved to Tennessee in 1994 after graduating with my Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. As a Sansei whose parents, grandparents, and other relatives were incarcerated during WWII, I have been interested in understanding the impact of racism, especially across generations. I study the impact of microaggressions on college students’ lives, focusing on racial, sexual, and gender microaggressions. In addition, my research examines student and institutional characteristics that promote positive outcomes such as resiliency, coping skills, and mediation. I appreciate the opportunity to volunteer at the Asian Festival each year and have been impressed with the tremendous growth over the years. It is exciting to see so many people who
are passionately learning about Asian cultures.

Dr. Javiette Samuel, Advisor
Dr. Javiette Samuel


The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Office of Research & Engagement
Office of Community Engagement and Outreach

Leroy Kautz, Board Member
Leroy Kautz

Board Member

Leroy Kautz, a Sifu (Kung Fu teacher) under Great Grand Master CHAN PUI

After studying various styles of Martial Arts since the early 1970’s, Leroy was introduced to the WAH LUM system in 1987, training nearly five years as a professional student in Tampa, FL. He then continued his training under the strict guidance of Grand Master CHAN PUI at the Wah Lum Temple in Orlando, FL.

Leroy was granted the opportunity, privilege and honor to open his own school and propagate this system and in August of 1994 Leroy began establishing the Tennessee based Wah Lum School in Knoxville.

Mahagi LaCure, Japanese Leader
Mahagi LaCure

Japanese Leader

Ms. LaCure has been teaching Japanese at the University of Tennessee for more than 20 years. She also works with students as advisor for the university’s Japan Club. Before becoming a teacher she worked as a tapestry weaver, selling her works through galleries. She is proud to be part of the Asian Festival in promoting and celebrating cultural diversity in Knoxville. When she has free time, she enjoys coordinating and wearing kimono and playing the shamisen, a Japanese three-string banjo.

Jula Connatser, Thailand Leader
Jula Connatser

Thailand Leader

Jula Connatser is a leader of One Community Services, Inc. Her company is a certified minority and women own business enterprise in Tennessee (MWBE).

Living outside of Thailand is keeping us away from our cultural activities with friends and families. The Knox Asian Festival brought Asian people in town together. Now we have opportunity to bring back our fun cultural environment. At least once a year we can wear traditional outfits, sing, dance, and share our cultural wisdom at the festival with everyone in Knoxville community.

Ruth Utami, Volunteer Coordinator
Ruth Utami

Director Assistant 

Ruth Dray, was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. Ruth earned her Bachelor of Economics from Padjadjaran University, Indonesia before obtaining her Masters of Business Administration in Finance from Lincoln Memorial University. Ruth currently works for Hearthside Bank as Loan Officer Assistant/ Loan Administrative Assistant in Knoxville TN.

Living in a developing country with large economic gap helpedRuth understand the importance of compassion. She is very passionate about giving back to the community. She joined multiple volunteer efforts in Indonesia including the Salvation Army Indonesia. Since her arrival to the United States, she continues her charity work whenever possible. Most recently, she focuses on charity events sponsored by Volunteer East Tennessee. She is also a member of the Middlesboro Ladies Golf Association.

Ruth enjoys traveling. Through travel, she learns about the manydifferent things life can offer. Travel lets her experience different food, people, languages, race, cultures, and ways of living in different places. The most important thing she has learned is that compassion brings peace, harmony, and unity through diversity, which is the Mission of the Knoxville Asian Festival.

Mrs. Silavong, Board Member
Mrs. Silavong

Board Member

Hailing from Ipoh, Malaysia, Mrs. Silavong immigrated to the United States in 1999. With her, she brought extensive knowledge of Malaysian and Chinese cookery. In 2007, she acquired ownership of the Plum Tree Chinese Restaurant, and in 2013, she branched out and opened Thai’an, located in the food court of West Town Mall.

Dr. Rachel Rui, Director of Marketing and Communications
Dr. Rachel Rui

University of TN Communication manager

Dr. Rachel Rui is a communication and international affairs expert who is now serving as the assistant to Chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Rachel supports the Chancellor in his day-to-day operations including strategic planning, project management, communication management, producing briefings, reports, and presentations, managing constituent’s relationships, meeting planning and scheduling prioritization. Rachel is a proud two-time UT alumna. She obtained her Master’s degree in Communication and Information in 2009 and her Ph.D. degree in the same area in 2014, with expertise in areas of social media and cross-cultural communication. Rachel is passionate about culture and art. She is a member of Young Professionals of Knoxville, and has served on the board of A1LabArts, participated in Knox Asian Festival and hosted Chinese New Year Gala for 10 years.

Ling Hidalgo-Catuncan, Philippines Leader
Ling Hidalgo-Catuncan

Philippines Leader

Ling Hidalgo-Catuncan is a licensed Physical Therapist with 24+ years of experience & is currently working at Shannondale Retirement and Assisted Living Centers. Originally from Navotas, Metro Manila & migrated to Knoxville, TN in 1994. Affiliated with Filipino American Christian Community of East, TN (FACCET) whose mission is to promote charity through service, time, talent and assist in realizing spiritual potential in our community. Ling is also an active member of Philippine American Association of East TN (PAAET) & assists with Fil-Am activities supporting the community. Enjoys dancing, singing, hosting and playing the guitar. Married to Paul Catuncan, also a physical therapist, with two smart kids, JP & Jos

Gina Wilson, Knoxville Area Korean Association President
Gina Wilson

Knoxville Area Korean Association President


My name is Gina Wilson I was born in South Korea. Graduated Young San Technical High School 1983 Worked in Samsung Semiconductor Came to USA in 80thWorked in at&t technician and manager. Retired from at&t as a Engineer 2014

I am amazed to see sight of beautiful Smokey area everyday all-around Knoxville Area. It is healing itself just be able to have chance to be in it.

I started to involve with Knoxville Area Korean Association 2019. I believe as a Korean American it is my obligation to volunteer for the communities.

First time I was involved volunteering was at the ALS Clinic in Emory Clinic and stay with them for Almost 10years. I realized there are so many of us needs someone to show them we care of them and love them to find comfort that will be a positive motivation in the everyday lives.

I am proud to be in United States that embrace different cultures and race. There are so many things we can learn and share with every and each one of us because we all are from different cultures and country and has unique individuality. And doing so we will understand and accept our unique characters and build a strong connection among all of us in our communities.

I wish we will continue to construct a positive relationship over the years to come in our great smoky area communities.

Michael Smith, Chinese Leader
Michael Smith

Chinese Leader

Michael Smith has produced the East Tennessee Chinese New Year Festival for the past 7
years. Held each February on the UTK campus, this event gives the audience the experience
of new year celebrations in China. Michael is also the coach of the East Tennessee Wushu
Team and East Tennessee Tai Chi team, has won 9 gold medals in martial arts competitions
in China, and has been teaching Chinese martial arts to kids and adults in Knoxville for 12
years. For more information, visit him at the knoxvillechineseculture booth at our Festival!

Dave Alderman, Board Member
Dave Alderman

Board Member

Dave Alderman works as a lead auditor at UL DQS Inc. He participated in founding Asian Culture Center of Tennessee (ACCTN) and assisted in organizing the Knoxville Asian Festival. Dave frequently travels to Asia to support ACCTN’s mission. Dave is an avid runner and competes in local and national marathons.

John Ramos, Security Advisor
John Ramos
Security Advisor
John Ramos was born in the Philippines and has been a resident of Knoxville since he was three years old. Mr. Ramos holds dual citizenship in the US and the Philippines. In the Philippines, he and his family were the owners of Visual Logic USA which was a company that provided Metro Manila Billboard media advertising and various outdoor advertising platforms. He worked closely with major corporations like ABS-CBN Media Entertainment, GMA Media Entertainment, Asia Brewery, and Philippine Airlines.
One of Mr. Ramos’s major achievements was assisting and producing advertising campaign media for Eddie Gil (loyalist and staff of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos), a Philippine Presidential candidate in the Philippine 2004 Election. He currently assists Hon. Senator Emmanuel (Manny) Pacquiao, former world boxing champion, with various charity fundraisers and sporting events in the Philippines.
Before Mr. Ramos’s career in media and advertising. He worked for his late uncle Cesar Lucero, Jr., Department of Foreign Affairs, chief legal counselor for the office of the Manila Mayor in their security department. In Knoxville, he is currently a team leader volunteer for CERT, Community Emergency Response Team which is under FEMA, and the Knoxville Emergency Management Agency. John’s new 2022 team will be trained and overseen by Don Sower, Tenneessee’s State Disaster Volunteer Service Manager.
He is currently the 2022 President of the Philippine-American Association of East Tennessee (PAAET) and has been a Public Relations officer in past years. PAAET is the leading Philippine-American organization in East Tennessee accredited by the University of Tennessee Department of Education and the city of Knoxville.
PAAET can be found in the University of Tennessee’s inclusion directory as one of East Tennessee’s Community Organizations.
Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson

USMC, Retired
Volunteer Security Manager

Lieutenant General Nicholson was born in Toronto, Canada, and is a 1979 graduate of the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He holds a MS degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. From 1980-1982, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Platoon and Company Commander in 3d Battalion, 1st Marines at Camp Pendleton, California. From 1982-1985 he was assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, where he served as a Series and Company Commander.

Following Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico, Virginia in 1986, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Platoon Commander at Officers Candidate School until joining 3/7 in the fall of 1986. He then served as a Rifle Company Commander for Lima 3/7 and subsequently Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines until May of 1990. From June 1990 to July 1993, Lieutenant General Nicholson served as a Company Officer and Instructor at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following completion of the US Army Command and General Staff College in 1994, he was assigned to the Middle East as a United Nations Observer for UNTSO Palestine. In 1995, he reported to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as the Executive Officer of the Wolfpack, 2d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

In 1997, Lieutenant General Nicholson assumed the duties as the 2d Marine Division, G-3 Operations Officer until taking Command of the WARLORDS of 2d Battalion, 2d Marines in 1999. Following a deployment to the Balkans with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he was re-assigned in 2001, as the Executive Officer of the 2d Marine Regiment. Upon graduation of the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy in 2002, he was assigned to NATO HQ in Brussels, Belgium where he served as the Ground Forces Planner for the U.S. Military Delegation to NATO. In July 2004, Lieutenant General Nicholson reported to the 1st Marine Division HQ at Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi, Iraq, where he served as the Division G-3. In July of 2005, he assumed command of the 5th Marine Regiment and deployed with them to Fallujah, Iraq in 2006.

As a General Officer, he has served as the Deputy Commanding Generalfor Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico; the Commanding General of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand Province Afghanistan; the Senior Military Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense in Washington, DC; the Operations Officer for the ISAF Joint Command in Kabul, Afghanistan; the Commanding General of the legendary 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California; and the Commanding General of the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan and the Pacific region.

LtGen Nicholson now calls Knoxville Tennessee home, is active in local Veterans affairs organizations, serves on the advisory board for the Spirit of America, Still Serving Inc, and is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and the Asia-Pacific Institutes’ Military Statesman’s Forum. He has been married to Deborah for 41 years and has 3 sons, 2 on Active-duty USMC, and 9 grandchildren that he and Debbie enjoys spoiling at every opportunity.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Grace Wu
Taiwan Leader

Grace Wu is the certified Chinese and ELL teacher of the USA, business owner of Mrs. Grace LLC., education officer of Civil Air Patrol and the president of Taiwanese Association of America East Tennessee chapter. I moved to Tennessee in 2016 for my graduate degree. I love this state a lot, and consider this place as my second hometown. I was working as a market planner for over ten years back when I was in Taiwan. Now I am an educator but still like to involved in public affairs. I have a passion to introduce Taiwanese culture to the USA, I enjoy hosting culture events. I am also working on introducing American educational philosophy to Taiwan. My facebook page “單媽美國奮鬥記” is mainly for introducing American newest education information and already has over 10,000 followers.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Dan Wang
Chinese Leader
Dan Wang is a Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Tennessee. She joined UT in 2015. Before coming to UT, Dan had worked at Duke University for eight years. She has taught Chinese language courses at various levels, led Study Abroad in China Summer sessions, and developed an online Mandarin course.

Dan has participated in Asian Festival for many years. She also worked with UT Chinese Cultural Club, UT Chinese Students and Scholars Association,  Knoxville Chinese Cultural Organization, and East Tennessee Chinese School to hold cultural exhibition booths and organize performances at the city or local community cultural events.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Elena Sonbok McMillan M.F.A., M.Ed., M.A.

Director of Community Reach

Professor Emerita Elena Sonbok McMillan is an accomplished artist, educator, and leader based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

As an artist, Elena has a deep appreciation for creativity and innovation. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), and has received numerous awards and accolades for her work. She understands the importance of fostering a creative environment that encourages experimentation, risk-taking, and growth.

Elena is also an experienced educator with a Master of Education degree from Hyles Anderson College. She has taught as Professor of Art at multiple Universities throughout the United States, and has developed an innovative curriculum and teaching methods that engage and inspires her students. Her passion for education and her commitment to promoting art and cultural understanding is a driving force for her non-profit work.

Finally, Elena holds a Master of Arts degree in English from the Texas A&M, Corpus Christi and has had a number of her art pieces added to museums and was selected as the head artists for a number of large installation and art pieces in museums in Southern California.

Elena’s leadership, creativity, and passion all come together in her love of culture and community with her non-profit work. As a two term President of the Korean Association of Knoxville and Council Woman of the National Unification Council of South Korea. Elena is no stranger to the demands of public office and providing strong leadership in difficult times.

Elena’s faith and passion for community is what drives Elena forward each day to help make the world a better place.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Michael McMillan

Director of Community Reach

Michael McMillan is the Executive Chairman of United Bridge Group, Founder and CEO of Bizprints, Advisory Board Member of ArenaCX, and author and TEDx featured speaker. For over 25 years, Michael has been building companies from the ground up as the founder and part of the executive leadership teams. Over this period, Michael has successfully raised almost 100 rounds consisting of Pre-Seed, Seed, and Series A, B, C, and D. Along with this, Michael has had 3 successful exits of companies he started from the ground up.

Today Michael focuses his attention on helping business owners go from where they are to where they want to be while not sacrificing their relationships with family, friends, and spiritual life. This mission for Michael now penetrates everything he does and invests his time and money. This focus on growing the business owner while scaling the business has resulted in many of the companies involved in the program experiencing 10x – 20x growth and has saved countless marriages.

Fun Fact: In 2002, Michael weighed in at just over 420 pounds. A year later, he crossed the finish line of the Chicago Triathlon at 310 pounds. Today he stays in the low 200s and has completed numerous long and short-distance triathlons, multiple full and half marathons, century(100 miles in one day) bike challenges, and more 10k’s and 5k’s than he can count.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Amudha Vaz

Indian Leader

Amudha Vaz is a passionate and creative Pre K teacher who aims to foster curiosity in children through various fun activities. With her experience as an ESL teacher, she has a knack for teaching and engaging with children of all ages. As an active member of the Knox Asian Festival since 2014, she enjoys sharing her heritage and learning about other cultures. Amudha also loves cooking and teaching Indian cuisine to others. In her free time, she loves playing with her furry friends Prince and Lucie , traveling with her family, and meeting new people.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Shigetoshi Eda

Japanese Leader

Dr. Eda joined the University of Tennessee Knoxville (UT) in 2003 and is currently a professor at the university. He has been serving as faculty advisor of UT Martial Art Club (Kendo, Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, Taekwondo) since 2008. He practiced Japanese Swordsmanship, Kendo, for 20 years and is the lead instructor of UT Kendo club. In his research laboratory, he hosted several scholars from Asian countries (China, India, Korea and Japan) as well as local students. He is also a teacher at the East Tennessee Japanese School (ETJS, since 2011). He has actively been involved in introduction of Japanese culture (Kendo, Calligraphy, Crafts, and Music) to the Knoxville community at Asian Festival (from the first festival), UT, ETJS, local schools, ORNL, and museums – not only in Knoxville but also in Chattanooga and Nashville. He has been a strong supporter of the Asian Festival since the planning stage of the event in 2013.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Arpakorn (Tom) Walker

Director of Operation for May 13th Fund Raise Event

I am a personal chef, former market executive, and all around food lover. After years of being inspired by the food I grew up with in Thailand and all the flavors I encountered traveling abroad for work and play, I fully immersed myself into the culinary world. I received a culinary diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education and set out to create, cook, explore, and experience all things culinary.

My culinary experiences have ranged from recipe testing, sushi making, teaching cooking class and catering chef in FL, NYC, and Kansas City.My ethnicity background has helped me develop my own sense of flavors when it comes to creating unique and artistic food. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled far and wide in North America and Asia. My travels have had a huge influence on my palette, educating and inspiring me to experiment with diverse flavors and ingredients. Most importantly, I love to have fun with my menus and create a memorable experience that not only tastes great but is also uniquely presented.

Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson, USMC, Retired, Volunteer Security Manager
Melissa Teng Towle

Director of Operation for May 13th Fund Raise Event

Melissa is the daughter of Thai-Chinese immigrants and a hobbyist cook. A graduate of Auburn University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree, she has 15 years in the architecture field designing a range of healthcare and commercial buildings across the Southeast. Her work experience as a Healthcare Design Research Consultant has helped healthcare facilities better design their spaces to improve workflow efficiencies and effectiveness in a variety of departments in hospitals throughout the US. Growing up in New Orleans, her father was an active member and past president of the Asian-Pacific American Society (APAS). Melissa is now taking the torch and committed to focusing her efforts to help the continued development of the Asian Culture Center of Tennessee being a major community contributor in Knoxville. She enjoys helping others learn about the AAPI community and the diverse cultures it encompasses (especially Asian food & cooking!). She and her family have lived in Knoxville and enjoy travel, food, movies, and sports.