Featured Alumnus: James Tang ’03
In September 2001, Manhattan native James Tang was dropped off at Avon Old Farms School for pre-season bootcamp as a first-year student. He had experience in the world of boarding schools, after attending Buckley School in New York and Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts for his first two years of high school. But, within hours, the magical community Tang had heard about during his admission tour at Avon would prove to be the right fit.
“15 hours after coming to Avon Old Farms, the first plane flew into One World Trade Center,” James began. “So you can understand how that day and the community of Avon Old Farms School will always be intertwined in my memory.”
Tang described the faculty and student body as immediately supportive. For a student who knew no one else at Avon, whose home was on the Upper East Side, and whose mother was the general manager of the World Trade Center, to say that the community offered comfort literally on day one, was a strong start.
“When I first visited Avon, it was Mrs. Cutler who toured me and eventually admitted me,” he said. “On that tour, she imparted onto me how the ideal Avon boy is not the best athlete, or the best academic. He is not the best artist, or the one who cheers the loudest. A true Avonian is a well-rounded individual who gets involved in the community.”
After settling from the effects of the 9/11 tragedy, Tang began to see that all Mrs. Cutler talked about was why he felt so at home at Avon.
“I saw how many activities there were and how everyone got involved, which inspired me to get involved, too, even as a first-year junior,” he continued. “A lot of it was the faculty support. My teachers, mentors, and coaches were very encouraging. By living on campus with the boys and serving in loco parentis, they truly cared about us and what we were doing. They didn’t just want me to join their club—they wanted me to do what I was passionate about.”
To that end, James did get involved. He ran cross country, wrestled, and played lacrosse. He joined the Bar Association Club, the Avon Record, Model UN, the Society of St. Brendan, the Nimrod Club, the Spirit Club, and the Irish-American Club. He was elected to the Student Council, and after just one year at Avon Old Farms, was made Warden of the school. Both years at Avon, James did it all while maintaining a standing on the Headmaster’s List.
When James graduated and decided to enroll at Colby College to study political science, it was not a surprise. All of his young civic engagement activities seemed to pave the way to a career in the field.
“I definitely would say it was a plan from the start,” James shared. “I was always interested in civic engagement, but Avon certainly seemed to solidify my thoughts at the right time. Mr. Dowling taught an AP class, and was always enthusiastic about getting engaged in politics. He made me want to study it more deeply. And Mr. Cooper, a fresh-out-of-college faculty member who was only at Avon for a short time, really fostered a love of political science in me.”
While at Colby, James served as the president of the Colby College Republicans and became involved with Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2004 campaign. It was there that James began a backward-walk into his current career: corporate finance.
“I took a very circuitous route to Wall Street,” he joked. “After working on Mayor Bloomberg's campaign, my networking there segued into another summer internship at Bloomberg’s company, which focused on financial data and media. That later led to an internship at Guggenheim Partners and eventually an analyst position.”
James began his career in 2007 at Guggenheim Partners in the Private Funds Group, where he worked on sourcing institutional capital and launching in-house and third-party private equity funds and private debt strategy funds. In 2010, James took a vice president role at Aegis Capital Corporation working in investment banking.
“A strong, young group of professionals had been together for almost 10 years at Aegis Capital when we saw an opportunity to start our own business,” James shared. “We acquired Euro Pacific Capital, with offices in Westport, Connecticut, and Newport Beach, California. We changed the name to Alliance Global Partners, brought our talented staff over, and began working. That happened two years ago this February.”
Currently, James serves as Vice President in the Investment Banking Division of Alliance Global Partners, a regional investment and advisory firm specializing in wealth management and the middle market institutional arena. He lives in New York City with his girlfriend Katie and their two dogs, Alfie and Louise.
Tang focuses primarily in corporate finance; various securities underwriting and placement; and M&A advisory for small and mid-cap companies in the healthcare, technology, and aerospace and defense sectors. At the small company, James is involved in almost every aspect of investment banking on a day-to-day basis. He finds the public listings, and checks the science behind a drug, device, or other product. Then, he assists in preparing the deal and paperwork to get the company registered properly with the FCC. He also sets up meetings with potential investors to assist in raising capital for the businesses to use in developing its assets.
The Alliance Global Partners website reads, “A.G.P. prides itself on providing its clients with boutique-level services along with the comfort of knowing their assets are held at Fidelity Custody and Clearing. Whether a client is looking for wealth management advice, institutional services, or investment banking, A.G.P. has a track record and a proven team to assist.”
“It’s a lot of fun, because I get to see a lot of new stuff firsthand—I’ve seen the latest developments in the fight against cancer, ebola, and paralysis. And, I’m actually not that far removed from politics, as everything in the stock market is tied so carefully to current events.”
Following the lessons he learned at Avon, James continued to be involved in many ventures. He currently serves as Chair of the Leadership Council for Special Olympics New York, and is a member of the Metropolitan Republican Club of New York and the New York Young Republican Club. In 2019, Tang was included in the ‘Future 40’ list curated by Maverick PAC (MavPAC), which recognizes professionals across the country who embody the next generation of leadership in the public and private sectors. Alongside Tang, the Future 40 Class of 2019 included candidates for Congress, veterans, CEOs, entrepreneurs, small business leaders, tech innovators, professional athletes, and more.
Maverick PAC is a political action committee created by John McCain with a mission of getting young veterans and business people involved in politics.
“Maverick encourages people to run for office or run pacs, to get involved in non-profit groups—whatever that person’s civic engagement can look like.”
And, on a completely unrelated note, James is also involved with three popular restaurants: Dorrian’s Red Hand, Shorty Tang’s Noodles, and the Michelin-rated Hwa Yuan Szechuan restaurant.
“Dorrian’s came about through my connection to some Avonians, actually,” James explained. “I started bartending there in college for fun when Avonian Ashton Crosby recommended the gig. I also met Tom & Anthony Martignetti there. He onboarded me. Eventually, I became more involved at the bar, developed a friendship with the Dorrian family, and eventually invested in the business and became a partner.”
The other ventures have a more personal story.
“My grandfather immigrated to the United States in the 60s from Taiwan after leaving mainland China during the civil war,” he began. “My grandfather was a prolific restaurateur, and began opening restaurants in Chinatown. It’s actually a crazy story, but my grandfather is credited with bringing cold sesame noodles to the United States. My father followed in his footsteps, but decided to retire 15 years ago.”
The family owns properties in New York, one of which had been occupied by the Bank of China. After that tenant moved out and left the huge property empty, James’s father decided it might be time to come out of retirement.
In the spring of 2017, the family opened Shorty Tang Noodles in Chelsea, a fast, casual dining option named after James’s grandfather Yun Fa ‘Shorty’ Tang, who died at age 50.
After three years of renovations, in October 2017, the family opened Hwa Yuan Szechuan, a revival of the original restaurant ‘Shorty’ opened in the 80s.
“I was lending a hand with the business development, and we were lucky to have extensive media coverage of the opening,” James said. “Since its opening, the restaurant has been positively reviewed by dozens of food critics. We were also happy to bring some authenticity back to Chinatown.”
Through it all, James continues to stay connected with Avon. Dorrian’s hosts Avon each fall for an alumni gathering in New York, James revisits campus for reunion celebrations, catches lacrosse games, and even meets with prospective students.
“While I never had him as a teacher or coach, I credit my engagement with Avon to Kevin Driscoll,” James shared. “He was a huge mentor for me while I was there, and today he’s always dropping me a line when he’s in town, sending me new names to network with, and letting me know the latest team stats.”
But, while many Avonians live in the city and Avon conducts a lot of business there, it’s always good to remember that Mrs. Riddle’s village isn’t too far away.
“Whenever I’m back on campus, it’s like nothing has changed,” James said. “When you see classmates, yes, you ask where they live, if they’re married, what their kids are up to these days...But then the relationship picks up right where we left it the last time we spoke. Avonians never miss a beat.”