Our Team

Peter Mach

Born and raised in Saigon, I moved to New York City in 1984 as a refugee at the age of 12 without a formal education.  Thanks to all the “angels” who helped me through different stages of my life, I was able to graduate with a BA and MA from Columbia University in New York in 1996.  I went on to have a successful banking career at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.  In 2007, I started my own money management business.  Today, I run my own business and live with my devoted wife and 3 lovely children.  I founded AMA in 2012 in order to pay my dues and give back to society.  When I looked at these recipients during our 1st award ceremony in 2012, I caught a glimpse of my past in Vietnam.  I was once a poor boy running around the streets of Saigon, but having a good education changed my life forever.  I want to give these students the help and care that my teacher and friend Father Michael Agliardo gave me during my early years in America, and hope that they in turn help their future students just as much.

Sophia Woo

I was born in Hong Kong but moved to Vancouver Canada at the age of 10 with two other siblings.  My father could not accompany us to Canada because he just co-founded the University of East Asia (now known as the University of Macau).  While my father could not be with us physically in Vancouver, he ensured that we had the best educational care by hiring a governess / home teacher called Barbara Rowland Hopkins.  I am grateful for having Barbara in my life as she was someone who not only educated me on various subject matters, but also instilled in me a love for school and a passion for learning.  I hope there will be more teachers out there like Barbara for the next generation, and I would like to play a role at AMA to make that a reality for others in need.  My father is also a big believer and supporter of educational development given his own philanthropic work through the years in Hong Kong, Macau, and China – a tradition that I’d like to embrace and nurture for myself and my children.

Claire Ngo

My parents left Vietnam in the early 1950’s to study abroad.  During the 70s, my family sponsored many Vietnamese refugees, helping and supporting families with the challenging adjustment process.  I received my BA from the University of Virginia and my MBA from Harvard Business School.  After working 13 years at Goldman Sachs, I set up CMN Consultancy, an advisory firm focusing on human capital development in Asia as well as pro-bono consulting work for select non-profit initiatives.  I currently serve on the Executive Committee of UN Women, the Board of Directors for the Singapore Repertory Theatre and am a 2012 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.  My father, who passed away in 2012, always stressed the importance of education, something that as he would say “can never be taken away from you.”  In particular, he taught me to appreciate, respect and celebrate the teachers in our lives who made a difference — teachers who were dedicated, passionate, and inspired learning from all their students.  I hope through my efforts to help scale and set up additional scholarships that I may honor the legacy of my father, Peter Ngo.

Ashwin Ranganathan

I was born in India and grew up in New Delhi.  I studied at the Doon School and went to college at Delhi University, where I got a B.A. in English Literature.  I received my Masters Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Exeter College, Oxford University.  After leaving Oxford, I relocated to Hong Kong to work for Goldman Sachs in the Asset Management division from 1994-2000.  I then moved to New York and worked for Oaktree Capital.  Together with my family, I relocated back to Singapore in 2005 to work for Tudor Capital, where I was a Partner and Managing Director.   After many years in finance, I retired from Tudor Capital in 2013 and have been focusing on charity work, investing, and my family.  I hope the scholarships will allow the candidates to achieve their true potential in life.

Shirley Kim

I was born and raised near San Francisco, California. I received my BA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997 and subsequently my JD from the University of San Francisco, School of Law in 2000.  I moved to Japan in 2000 and worked at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto as a corporate attorney advising multinationals in securities law.  I also worked as an Adjunct Professor, teaching legal writing courses at the University of San Francisco.  I am married and have two daughters in primary school.  I currently reside in Singapore.  I hope that the students who receive support through our organization will strive to do their best and eventually give back to those in their respective communities.

Nguyen Quynh Huong

I was born and raised by a middle-income class family, which gave me many more advantages than the average child in Vietnam.  In 1999, I was sent to the U.S. to study where I earned a BS degree in Finance.  I relocated back to Vietnam in 2005 and worked as an investment professional. My life was turned upside down in early 2012 when doctors discovered that my son Richie had brain cancer at the age of 3 months old. He survived after 2 intensive surgeries, though a long road lied ahead for his recovery.  Thanks to the financial and emotional support from friends and family, I muscled enough strength to persevere.  Through this period, I realized that we sometimes forget how much difference we can make in the lives of those in need of help, until we are in such a position ourselves.

Dinh Le Tuy Vy

I was born 5 years after the war in a small village 20 kilometers away from Hue City, the Central of Vietnam, where most of the children back then did not have the chance to go to school, especially for the girls. My parents did not want their little daughter to grow up in the fields and get married at early twenties like most of the girls in my hometown did, so they relocated the whole family to Saigon when I was six years old, hoping that I would have a chance to go to school and to have a better life.  Life in Saigon was extremely difficult for the poor immigrants like us. But thanks to the huge support from my teachers that I could be able to finish 12 years of school and earn a BS degree from the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City.  I started my career as an auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers and later became a financial consultant in a boutique investment banking firm.  I think it is my turn to contribute back to those who soon will be the teachers so that they can follow their dream to develop the new generations of my country.

Natalie Pham

I was born and raised in a disadvantaged urban area in the US to immigrant parents from Viet Nam. Through the inspiration of amazing teachers and over $250,000 USD worth of scholarships, I was able to obtain a BA, 2 MA’s and a Ph.D.  I have devoted my life to serving others through education.  I have worked in the field for over 20 years as a teacher, consultant, school administrator, speaker, and teacher trainer around the world and now in Viet Nam for the past 8 years.  At over 59 million, teachers are the largest group of trained professionals in the world.  As transmitters of knowledge and community leaders, teachers are powerful catalysts for lasting global change.  A world with well-trained, well-informed teachers is a world with smarter, healthier, wealthier, more peaceful individuals and societies.

Sylvie Ma

Half Chinese and half Vietnamese, I was born and raised in the Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  My Vietnamese mother and Chinese-descent father left Vietnam in the 1970’s as boat people with very young siblings.  After arriving in Canada, they could not pursue higher education because they needed to focus on working many jobs to support 5 siblings.  My parents always believed in education and encouraged my siblings and me to study hard in order to achieve higher potential in life.  My parents had to sacrifice themselves for their siblings and for us.  In order to help them back, I started to work at the age of 12.  At first, I worked to pay for my annual school field trips, then for my personal spending, and eventually for my own tuition fees.  I also studied very hard in order to be a recipient of scholarships.  Thank to those scholarships and financial contributions from parents and myself, I managed to graduate with 2 degrees and stay free of debt.  I obtained a B. Comm major in Finance and minor in International Business from John Molson School of Business – Concordia University, and obtained a Law Degree (L.LL) from Ottawa University.  After my law degree, I wanted to have some international exposure and started working in Vietnam as a law intern, having been admitted to practice law by the Barreau du Québec as a foreign lawyer for VB Law (formerly known as DC Law). After working for 3 years as a commercial, investment and corporate lawyer in Vietnam, I established Ma, Nguyen & Partners (MN&P), an investment and immigration consultancy firm focusing on helping Vietnamese to invest and settle abroad mainly in Canada and the USA.  Working as an immigration lawyer provides me a sense of fulfillment as a professional, and also as an individual helping people and giving back to local community.  I am currently serving my 3rd term as a Treasury and Board Member of Cancham, a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen business and community relations. For me, being part of AMA member as a legal advisor is a natural extension of my professional career, where I can help future educators complete their degrees in a productive and debt-free manner.

Ho Vinh Tuan

I was born in Saigon during the Vietnam war and raised in Dalat until I was 11.  In 1985, I left Vietnam as a boat person.  A year later at the age 17, I went to the USA as a refugee and started a new life in Orange County, California.  Knowing the importance of education, I studied very hard and got admitted into UCLA.  With the help from a scholarship, I was able to graduate with a BS degree in engineering.  Since 1997, I have built my own businesses and made many investments in Vietnam.  From 2006, I moved to Saigon to live and work as a real estate developer.  I am happy to be a part of AMA so that we can make a difference in the lives of both educators and education in Vietnam.

Nguyen Huy Tung

I was originally born in Ha Noi but then moved to HCMC at the age of 8. Since I was a kid, my parents were never reluctant to spend money on anything if it was for education.  In 1998, my parents sent me to the US for studying. I earned a BBA in Finance, a BS in Information Systems, and a MS in Information Systems.  I came back to Vietnam in 2005 and worked for Vietnamworks.com and later the State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC). I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in 2010. While undergoing dialysis, I realized that I could die anytime but yet I have not done anything significantly meaningful for others.  Inspired by the love and devotion of my parents, I wanted to help others via education too. I heard about AMA through my sister Huong and was immediately bound by it.  AMA is certainly the kind of organization that I have always wanted to be a part of.  I am sure I am going down the right path in helping others around me.  I believe we together at AMA can help realize its missions.

Bùi Thái Quế Minh

Born and raised in Tra Vinh, a remoted province in Mekong Delta, I received my K-12 education from local public schools.  Since the age of 13, I have been pursuing the dream of improving the education quality in Vietnam for the sake of all Vietnamese children.  I attended the University of Education in Ho Chi Minh City and became a teacher of English in 2011.  I worked for 2.5 years at Lawrence S. Ting School, where I had access to a professional and international education environment.  Now I am a private tutor and part-time teacher, which allows me time to participate in charity work, especially those for education.  I value the vision of AMA Foundation as we aim at long-term benefits rather than short-term results, which is essential for investments into education.  With all my respect to AMA founders and donors, I wish to devote my labour, ideas, knowledge and skills to the activities and development of AMA.  I believe that we can bring about a better community, a better country, and a better world thanks to better education.

Trinh Du

In 1997, I made my first trip back to Vietnam almost 20 years after I left as a boat person.  The sights, smells and sounds were all too familiar as if I was just there yesterday.  The first place I went to visit was my old school, which to my pleasant, still stood there.  The loud roars of the children burst out when the recess bell rang as I stood outside looking in.  It brought back many fond memories of my childhood and especially of teachers.  I had an unforgettable conversation with one of the teachers when I was sent to detention hall for misbehaving.  I asked her "Why did you become a teacher?  It seems so boring when you have to repeat the same lectures and grade the same papers year after year. And even worse, you have to deal with misbehaving kids like me."  She smiled and answered softly, "For you, for our future, and for our country."  We went on to talk about other things and before I left to go back to class, I asked her one last question, "Do you get many thanks from kids?"  She replied, "Few now but hopefully some more later."  I left Vietnam in autumn of that year and didn't have a chance to thank her and other teachers.  That conversation stayed with me ever since and inspired me to find ways to show gratitude and give back to the teaching profession.  I was born and raised in Cholon where I was a wonderful childhood.  I left Vietnam at the age of 13 as a boat person and resettled in New York.  I was one of the fortunate ones.  While I was in junior high school in the Bronx I met a very kind and generous teacher named Joan Davidman who took me in to live with her.  She took care of me as if I were her own son and I call her Mom.  She along with her husband Morty and son Rick provided me with a wonderful family and many happy memories.  I went on to study to be an engineer at Cornell University and later attended business school at University of Pennsylvania.  My job in finance eventually brought me to Hong Kong, where I met and worked with Peter who has a very similar life background as me.  I am blessed with a wonderful wife Elaine and two lovely sons Marcus and Alex.  I am grateful to Peter for inviting me to be a part of the AMA family.  I admire Peter for his kindness and generosity to set up the foundation to give back to the people who need it most.  I am honored and proud to have a chance to contribute in whatever way I can to help and give back especially in the area of education and teaching.

Đặng Chính Nghĩa

I was born in 1956, after the signing of the Geneva Agreement between Vietnam and France.  The peace came in Vietnam but our country was still divided into two parts – the South and the North.  My parents were southern people, but they assembled to the North. I was given a priority to study and finished an undergraduate program in 1977.  After that, I became a lecturer in Faculty of Physics in Ho Chi Minh City University of Pedagogy.  In 1980, I finished my Masters degree.  At that time, studying PhD in material sciences was really hard, especially since I just got married and had to take care of my family.  From 1986 to 1996, I did both teaching and business so that I could maintain my passion in teaching and still have the financial sources to cover my family’s living expenses.  From 1996 until now, I have only focused on teaching.  I used to have the intention to go back to studying, but I might be too old for doing it now.  For that reason, due to my position as a Vice-Director who is responsible for the university’s students and lecturers’ lives, I would like to connect them to sponsors in order to give them the support they need to finish their study while they are young.

Phuong Diem Huong

I was born in a family of three children in 1970 in the North of Vietnam.  My father is a doctor and my mother is an assistant in a hospital.  Like most of the families at that time, my family faced many difficulties in their finances, but my parents always tried their best to support us to finish our studies.  In 1988, due to my excellent achievements in high school, I was selected to Faculty of Literature of Ho Chi Minh City University of Pedagogy without having to participate in the entrance exam. From the year of my graduation 1992, I have been working in this university. The devotion of my father to poor patients has influenced my own working attitude. He often says that working hard is a way for us to repay society for the lucky life we have.  Over the past 20 years at the university, I have met thousands of students who have very hard lives and have to quit their studies when they cannot get our help.  Therefore, I make it a goal in my life to be an effective facilitator between our sponsors and the students / lecturers who need help.  Finding scholarships for poor students and lecturers is an important part of this goal.

Ngo Vinh-Tuan

I acknowledge that only exceptional individuals can change an entire society, but I am a believer that each of us can impact positively our society at our own scale.  I was born in Vietnam.  In 1979, I left my country as a boat person with only my father, leaving my mother and my 2 younger brothers behind.  They eventually joined us 9 years later.  After a 13-day journey full of events during which my father and I should have died numerous times, we ended up in France.   Once in our new country, my father decided to go back to university to give us a better life.  A French family, Mr and Mrs. Francois Beaugendre, whom I had met less than an handful of times, offered me to stay with them during my father's studies.  My French “angels” are very educated individuals and they taught me the love of the French culture, the importance of learning, and our duties to leave the world better than how we enter it.  Living amongst them clearly changed my entire life and has been a cornerstone of the success in my life.  Thanks to my Vietnamese parents and my French benefactors, I was able to graduate with a BA from a French elite "grande ecole" and an MBA from The Wharton School in Philadelphia in 2002.  I went on to have a successful career in banking and today I work for a leading US hedge fund Alden Global Capital.  Whenever I am back in Vietnam and when I meet my family members who stayed behind in my country of birth, I realise how lucky I am.  The poor Vietnamese persons on the street struggling to feed their families could have been me.  The only differences between them and me are a bit of luck and the chance I have had to meet the right people that had allowed me to realise my potential.  Being happily married and a father of 3 beautiful kids, I feel the need to give back to the society as part of the inheritance I would like to leave to my kids.  I want to find a meaningful way to thank both my biological parents and my French parents for their love.  I believe there is no better way to achieve my goals than to support education in Vietnam by setting up the right environment to develop teachers, who in turn will prepare the future Vietnamese generations successfully.  I have been looking for a project that will motivate me enough to get involved.  I have decided to join the AMA team because I particularly like the zero slippage of the donated money, the strong relationships between donors and recipients, and the tangible impact AMA has on people's lives.”

Gary Howlett

"I first came to Viet Nam in the fall of 1968 as an infantry platoon leader with the 25th Infantry Division.  Having grown up in a rural farming community in central Illinois, I found that I had much in common with the people in the rural villages in Tay Ninh Province especially the farmers.  I also witnessed the horrible toll that war places on fellow human beings regardless of the side one is on.  I left Viet Nam with a silver star, bronze star for valor, a combat infantryman's badge, two purple hearts and clearly a broken heart.  I was evacuated to Camp Zama, Japan where I spent three months in the hospital recovering from wounds.  While in Japan, I spent a great deal of the time reflecting on how I might best effect positive change in the world.  Further, I began to meditate on who had most influenced me up to that point in my life.  My grandfather popped into my mind, my mother to be sure, but a whole host of teacher faces appeared in my mind’s eye.  It was at that point that I decided to become a teacher.  Little did I know at the time, but for many of us, finding purpose and direction in helping others to learn and grow also helps us to learn and grow!   "To teach is to learn twice."  

 

I have spent most of my career as a special education teacher, School Psychologist & learning advisor specializing in students with serious social & emotional challenges, at-risk youth & others with learning disabilities.  I have been a board member & consultant with “Teachers without Borders” for the past 11 years.  “Teachers without Borders” advances human welfare through teacher professional development on a global scale.  We have members from over 118 countries and an affiliation with Johns Hopkins University (www.teacherswithoutborders.org).  I have been a long time member & board member of New Horizons for learning.  Since 1980 New horizons has served as a leading-edge resource for understanding learning.  In the spring of 2010 New Horizons became part of the education department at Johns Hopkins University (www.newhorizons.org ; www.education.jhu.edu/newhorizons ).

 

Currently I work with the University of Washington's Center for Experiential Learning & Diversity teaching a course entitled "Strengths-based Education: Serving the Under-served"  A course rooted in Positive Psychology & Positive Education.  The university students are required to mentor or tutor students in the local public schools.  We facilitate the use of evidenced-based strategies to encourage success with at-risk or underserved populations.  I continue to do parent programs, professional development for educators, consult and maintain a small private practice doing Positive Psychology coaching & mentoring.  I prefer those terms to more deficit oriented practices associated with counseling & therapy.  I follow the work of the International Positive Psychology Association and the work at Penn (www.authentichappiness.org ) being done by Dr Martin Seligman and others. 

 

I am so very excited to be part of the AMA family.  I have a deep love & respect for Viet Nam.  I admire the culture, emphasis on family, work ethic & resilience of the people.  I have had the great pleasure of knowing and working with Natalie Pham for the last ten years and look forward to getting to know the rest of the AMA members as well.

 

I still believe that education empowers individuals, families, & communities.  I have always tried to work professionally with the simple "my kid" rule.  What is it that I want for my kid(s)?  And why would I want anything less for the children & families in Viet Nam?  I leaned as a young man that war is not an answer.  I believe a quality education for all is at least part of the answer for a better future.  Encouraging & supporting those who teach can have a profound effect on generations to come.  AMA is poised to have a powerful impact on people’s lives.  I am proud to play a small part.”