Philanthropist Vartkess M. Balian Leaves a Rich Legacy

Vartkes_Balian_01 (Small)A tireless supporter of Armenian causes, Vartkess M. Balian passed away
on Monday, August 3, 2008, in Arlington, Virginia, at the age of 76
after a courageous battle with cancer. A former president of the
Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) Central Committee of America,
he was a co-founder, along with his wife, Rita, of the highly successful
AGBU New York Summer Intern Program, which offers Armenian students from
around the world opportunities to gain professional work experience that
will aid them in their future careers. The New York Intern Program has
over 600 alumni.
AGBU President Berge Setrakian offered his condolences to the Balian
family and cited his invaluable contributions to AGBU: “Vartkess was
always a most ardent and loyal supporter of our Armenian heritage. He
was a devoted leader within the AGBU community, having served as a Board
member and as co-founder and co-chair of the President’s Club of AGBU’s
New York Intern Program.”
A Life Remembered
Vartkess Balian was an architect, home builder, developer, humanitarian
and art collector who was a giant in Washington, DC’s Armenian-American
community. He dedicated his life to public and community service and was
forever devoted to his Armenian heritage. Along with his wife, he
supported countless cultural and humanitarian efforts around the world,
particularly in Armenia and the United States.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, he studied architecture and civil engineering
at the American University of Beirut and, soon afterwards, opened an
architectural and engineering firm that designed many institutions and
residential buildings in Lebanon, including numerous Armenian schools.
Along with Yenovk Balikian, he designed the modernist AGBU Alex
Manoogian Center in downtown Beirut.
He left Beirut during the onset of that country’s civil war and settled
in Washington, DC in 1976. He was a founder and partner of the
Hyattsville-based Quad Group of America, a land development and
construction company that has built several thousand residences across
the region. In the 1990s, he became a partner in Haverford Homes, a
Hyattsville home development business founded by his oldest son.
Vartkess Balian was also active in many other Armenian-American
organizations. He was a trustee of the Washington-based Armenian
Assembly of America. He established an endowment fund with the Tekeyan
Cultural Association to sponsor an annual international media award for
Armenian journalists. He served as president of the Tekeyan central
board and as a trustee of St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in
Washington, DC.
After the 1988 Armenian earthquake, the Balians initiated humanitarian
and cultural efforts to aid the people of Armenia. A school in Garbi,
Armenia, was named in their honor.
For the past 11 years, Vartkess Balian was a trustee of the Armenian
American Wellness Center in Yerevan, which has provided medical services
to underserved women in Armenia.
Vartkess Balian was also a patron of the arts and a noted collector of
modern Armenian art. His collection, which he lovingly built with his
wife, has been showcased in museums, galleries and U.S. embassies
throughout the world. In Washington, he was a benefactor of art museums,
orchestras, opera and other cultural institutions. He was also a member
of the Washington National Cathedral Association.
He and his wife have been honored by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos
of All Armenians, for their efforts in promoting the international
Armenian Apostolic Church.
Vartkess Balian is survived by his wife of 47 years, Rita Balian; his
two sons, Sevag Balian of Chevy Chase and Raffi Balian of Arlington; two
sisters, Haikouhi Koudoussian of Rockville and Marie Balian of
Arlington; and four grandchildren.

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