Suffield Academy held its 17th Annual Alumni Leadership Awards Program Day on May 6. The Alumni Association created the program to honor Suffield graduates who have displayed notable leadership in their professional careers or in a humanitarian endeavor. The Alumni Leadership Award Selection Committee is comprised of alumni, students, and members of the faculty. This year’s award was presented to David R. Holdridge ’62, P’03 and May Chow ’03.
David R. Holdridge served in the Vietnam War as an infantry platoon leader outside of Chu Lai. He was wounded and spent 18 months at various hospitals in the United States until being freed from his trauma at Connecticut’s Hartford Hospital. He spent the next 35 years working with humanitarian organizations among populations suffering from war, exploitation, and impoverishment, including assignments in West Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. From 2010 to 2012 he directed an advocacy effort in Washington DC for significant transformation of the current systems of American assistance abroad. David lives on a tree farm in Vermont with his wife Annie. His daughter Hank was born in Beirut and his son Alex ’03 in Tunis. David was the recipient of Prize Americana in 2015 for his memoir The Avant Garde of Western Civ and is currently authoring a book describing the beginnings of the counter culture revolution in 1962.
May Chow became immensely successful and widely renowned in Hong Kong after opening her own restaurant in 2013, Little Bao. From the iconic baby head neon signage, indie music selection, and Chinese bao burger invention, May demonstrated her creativity by drawing on influences from her Chinese heritage and American upbringing. In March 2017, May opened another highly acclaimed Chinese restaurant called Happy Paradise. She was named as Asia’s Best Female Chef in December 2017 by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. She also received the inaugural Local Champion award from the 2017 edition of Hong Kong Tatler Best Restaurants. May served as a judge on America’s Top Chef and was a featured guest on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (season 11). She has used her high profile and fame to promote LGBTQ issues in Hong Kong and support women in her industry. May is the youngest to ever receive the alumni leadership award.
The recipients were honored and shared remarks in the Second Baptist Church.
Headmaster Cahn welcomed David and May back to Suffield and commented on the program’s significance: “All of these alums stand as a symbol of the great talents in the Suffield Academy community and the incredible areas of opportunity for our students in the years ahead. Like you they built a strong foundation at Suffield, and I know as they think back at their years here they reflect on the relationships built and how their lives unfolded.”
Following an introduction provided by faculty member Andy Lowe, David Holdridge told a few stories. He spoke about his life and a great fondness for literature. He talked about the books with which he fell in love and the joy he had in discussing them as a student. “Our arguments and banter were generally revolutionary and fantastic,” he recalled. Encouraging the community to step outside their collective comfort zones he urged, “Go write the difficult stories, and I don’t mean for publication but for yourself and your own narrative. It is right here where you start the foundation for your story and where you can begin to learn about the world’s greater family.”
Poised with positivity, May Chow talked about education and the inspiration behind her iconic bao burger. “I was at Suffield for two years and I can tell you it doesn’t get better,” she noted. “Life doesn’t get better in terms of someone nurturing you. There are 150 people here nurturing 400 students and caring about you on a 24-hour basis.” She claimed it was in Mr. Sullivan’s English class where she first discovered creative confidence. “If you have a voice you should be outspoken and not be penalized for having a different point of view,” she declared. It is for this reason, May claims, she was inspired to recreate the concept of Asian comfort food and introduce her bao burger to Hong Kong: “I wanted to combine my American experiences with Chinese flavors so that two individual people could appreciate it from two different angles. I am constantly trying to redefine modern day Chinese cuisine without losing the traditions of it.”