Honoring alumni who have made ‘significant positive impact on their communities, society, or the world’, All-School Meeting (ASM) this past week featured three alumni who received the Andover Alumni Award of Recognition.
The recipients included Ming Tsai ’82, a nationally-acclaimed chef, as well as host and executive producer of Simply Ming, a public television cooking show, William Lewis ’74, an economist and philanthropist, currently serving on the boards of several education and nonprofit institutions, Dorothy Tod ’60, an award-winning film editor, producer, and director who worked closely in directing popular children’s show Sesame Street.
With each of the ASM speakers sharing insight for varying job fields and life lessons, some students found resonance from their speeches. Fred Javier ’23 appreciated the diversity of the speakers and their unique success stories.
“I really enjoyed the ASM, especially having the speakers as an integral part of the ASM. I liked their more chill and human, personal messages that they had that went a long way. I also resonated a lot with Ming Tsai’s story in career path, the idea of pursuing your dreams and persevering as well as being kind and doing what you love. Although he mentioned the message may sound like a cliche story, I was very entertained and I wouldn’t mind hearing it again,” said Javier.
In an interview with The Phillipian, Tsai shared his advice on staying true to yourself while chasing your dreams, reflecting back to his transition from a mechanical engineer to a professional chef. According to Tsai, his career path to success was embedded from his gut feeling to become a chef and the love he had for cooking.
“It’s so cliche, but it’s so true. You have to follow your dreams and your passions. You will never be good, forget about great, at something if it’s not something you really want to do. When I got to Yale, I was a good Chinese boy. [I was going to be] an engineer. And I did fine in the classes, so I just took engineering, as many classes as I could. But, in the back of my head I knew that I wanted to be a chef,” said Tsai.
He continued, “Your gut never lies. Your gut doesn’t get any bias from anywhere else. I loved the hospitality. I loved making people happy through food. A good price, a big smile, a delicious thing, it’s an awesome job. That [idea] was always at the back of my head as something I really wanted to do, and I’m good at it.”
Lewis shared a sentiment on giving back to others, a philosophy Lewis formed from receiving educational opportunities with financial aid. Growing up, Lewis lacked financial security that many of his peers had, thus prompting him to return the favor once he was in a place to do so.
Lewis said in an interview with The Phillipian, “For me, I went through the ‘A Better Chance’ program, which means that somebody, somewhere, paid for 100% of my education at Andover, and then at Harvard college. And I felt that it was my duty to basically start giving back as quickly as possible, that was my number one. And number two, [I wanted to] figure out how to create and expand opportunity. And that has been sort of the basis of my philanthropy for the last 50 years or so, figuring out how to expand opportunity.”
Dorothy Tod ’60 spoke about her job experience as a film editor, producer, and a director. According to Tod, directing Sesame Street enabled her to explore the world and learn about balancing between the message she wants to convey and the logistics in the film.
“Working at Sesame street, in a way, I saw the world. I got to go to a desert, a jungle, and see African animals. I had a wide range of environments that I was able to explore through the process of filming there. I ended up with a library of footage and then I was able to make the film. [During the process], you learn about what the media roles are for the culture, and that was pretty interesting for me to see what worked and what didn’t,” said Tod.
She continued, “When you do media and it ends up airing in a significant way, you really learn how the culture is put together. There is always this tension, discovering what works, what doesn’t work and where you fit in with what you believe and what you think. That was something I had to grow and learn through during my career.”
According to Kiran Ramratnam ’22, the ASM helped her gain perspective on life after Andover and reflect on the opportunity she is given. Ramratnam finds significance in the privilege of attending Andover for its resources and opportunities that go beyond her current experience at Andover as a senior.
“It is really cool to see how Andover alumni moved forward with their lives after leaving this place. I feel like at Andover, it’s easy to get caught up in just being at this school, but not really how [the resources provided here] can impact their later lives. It’s honestly such a privilege to be at a school with such resources. Things here feel like they’re the end or they’re everything. But there is so much more. I am existing in Andover right now and I am a student here, but I will leave this place to go on and do other things, and [that’s] important too,” said Ramratnam.