AGBU Young Professionals Break New Ground – Networking Never Felt This Good

YP_Network_02 (Small) The only Armenian network of its kind spanning five continents, the AGBU Young Professionals (YP) make Armenian communities around the world thriving, better places in which to live, through civic involvement and international cooperation bound by one common mission – to promote the Armenian identity and heritage.
Inspiring their peers to get involved and stay involved, the open-door policy of the AGBU Young Professionals has garnered them a worldwide reputation for promoting a sense of community and belonging for young Armenians ages 22 to 40.
Proof positive, the AGBU YP Network swelled to 22 groups with welcome additions abroad in Brazil, Australia, and Germany, while stateside, Washington, D.C. and Fresno, California joined the fold. Discussions are also underway to establish even more groups in South America and the Middle East by year’s end.
Substantive and impactful, the YP Network sponsored over 90 cultural, educational and social events in 2007 with over 5300 YPs in attendance, representing 20% of AGBU worldwide activity. Sharing the fruits of their labor, the groups also donated nearly $41,000 back to the community, with 70% of the funds earmarked for worthwhile AGBU projects in Armenia and Karabakh. The total amount of funds raised since the network’s inception has surpassed $135,000, of which over $60,000 was brought in by the fundraising powerhouse, the Young Professionals of Greater New York.
As the AGBU Young Professionals continue to build momentum around the world, groups are identifying novel ways to mobilize and attract their peers by promoting their professional lives and interests. Some key examples include the professional development seminar series organized by YP Toronto on contemporary topics such as identity theft, real estate and retirement planning, and the establishment of professional Special Interest Groups by YP Paris and YP Yerevan.
Other YP Groups elect to give back by contributing towards the good work of their AGBU Chapters and the well-being of their communities-at-large, as witnessed by YP Plovdiv’s administrative support of the local AGBU student scholarship program, the sponsoring of a fundraiser by YP Los Angeles and YP Orange County in California to benefit the AGBU Generation Next Mentoring Program, and YP Tehran’s visit to the Akunk Center, a facility for Armenian children with mental and physical diseases.
Additionally, the YP Network is exploring ways to harness its collective power through the release of a new logo and web platform on Meetup and Meetup Alliance (, adoption of a project to support the career development needs of youth in Armenia and promotion of international cooperation and understanding through a videoconferencing series with the largest Armenian diaspora in the world – Russia.
Los Angeles & Moscow Connect in Cyberspace
On July 19, 2008, the AGBU Young Professionals of Los Angeles (YP LA) collaborated with SIVAM, a peer organization based in Moscow, Russia, on a ground-breaking Internet videoconference.
With participants from the two largest Armenian diasporas assembled, the YP LA Publicity Chair Narine Zardarian based in Pasadena, California and SIVAM Coordinator Isabella Gushchyan based in Moscow, Russia facilitated the online videoconference exchange that compared and contrasted the Armenian-American and Russian-Armenian experiences, stimulating inquiries about key cultural differences and the sharing of anecdotal accounts.
“Videoconferencing with professionals in Moscow made me realize that there is an emerging global Armenian identity,” said Zardarian. “It is an identity that transcends geographic boundaries, dialects and other affiliations, but simply appeals to one’s inner core as an Armenian.


AGBU E-Newsletter No.32

AGBU E-Newsletter No.32


AGBU NYSEC’s "Debut Concert" at Carnegie Hall Sells Out, Raises $50,000 for Scholarships

NYSEC_Debut_Concert_01 (Small) On Saturday, September 20, 2008, “A Debut Concert” attracted an audience
of 300 and raised over $50,000 for AGBU Performing Arts scholarships.
Organized by the AGBU New York Special Events Committee (NYSEC), the
concert at Weill Recital Hall of New York’s Carnegie Hall showcased the
talent of 16 young artists who have benefited from AGBU’s performing
arts scholarships.
The evening was a celebration of music, both Armenian and Western. The
program included a world premiere of Tigran Martikyan’s “The Dance of
Spring” and the U.S. premiere of Kevork Andonian’s “Rhapsody for String
Pre-event efforts raised over $50,000 from AGBU donors, whose support
will ensure that the scholarship endowment for performing artists
continues to grow and support artistic excellence. The evening’s
performing artists included seven pianists: Hayk Arsenyan (NY), Dr.
Sarkis Baltaian (LA), Tigran Martikyan (NY), Sofya Melikyan (NY), Mariam
Nazarian (Boston), Vardan Ovsepian (Boston) and Karine Poghosyan (NY);
two violinists: Aroussiak Baltaian (LA) and Cecee Pantikian (NY); four
cellists: Ani Kalayjian, Lilit Kurdiyan, Hrant Parsamian and Kevork
Parsamian (all of NY); a singer: mezzo-soprano Solange Merdinian (NY); a
French horn player: Raffi Dimoian (NY); and three composers: Kevork
Andonian (LA), Tigran Martikyan (NY) and Vardan Ovsepian (Boston).
The program was under the artistic direction of two of the performers,
Solange Merdinian and Ani Kalayjian, who dedicated countless hours to
the evening’s success. The event was organized by the AGBU NYSEC
committee, which includes Anita Anserian, Carol Aslanian, Betty
Cherkezian, Nila Festekjian, Maral Hajjar, Hilda Hartounian, Maral
Jebejian, Gacia Mangassarian, Vesna Markarian, Sossy Setrakian and Vera
Setrakian, with invaluable support from Hripsime Roupen, Administrator
of the AGBU Scholarship Program.
NYSEC committee member and AGBU Central Board Member Carol Aslanian
noted the importance of the concert in raising awareness about AGBU’s
Scholarship Program. “The professionalism of our students was
remarkable. Everyone was impressed with the quality of the performances
and the program of music. Given my longtime involvement with AGBU’s
Scholarship Program, I was so pleased to see the Armenian-American
public recognize the importance of our commitment to these students, who
are representative of the best world-class young musicians.”
In addition to its mission to raise awareness among the public, the
event also offered a rare opportunity for performers to reconnect with
their cultural roots and meet fellow musicians. “I was thrilled to
rehearse and play with all these other young performers; everyone was so
kind and open,” says violist Aleksander Nazaryan, who originally hails
from Armenia. “It was a rare occasion where I could really enjoy being
Armenian and performing in a foreign land. I appreciate AGBU’s
organization of this event, which brought us all together. Hopefully we
can have more events in the future where we can celebrate being Armenian
through music.”
Another musician, Sarkis Baltaian, who is originally from Bulgaria but
currently lives and works in Alabama, shared the sentiment: “I enjoyed
being part of the great musical celebration AGBU organized. It was a
real pleasure collaborating with all AGBU artists who were superb!”
For many decades, AGBU grants have been awarded to hundreds of talented
and qualified students of Armenian descent, who are studying in the
performing arts and have demonstrated excellence in their chosen fields.
These awards enable recipients to achieve their potential, laying the
foundation for their future, as they celebrate their heritage and
identity. Past recipients have studied at distinguished conservatories
and universities worldwide, such as The Juilliard School, Manhattan
School of Music, Komitas State Conservatory, Yale University, Mannes
College of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Vienna

Fiftieth-Anniversary Celebrations of the Founding of AGBU Montreal Chapter Culminate with Gala Banquet

Montreal_Anniv_02 (Small) The series of programs dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the founding
of the AGBU Montreal Chapter, which began with a special celebration and
ceremony honoring its past chairmen on March 9, culminated in a gala
banquet, which took place on May 18, 2008, in Chateau Vaudreuil with
some 300 guests in attendance.
As with the previous events, the banquet enjoyed the patronage of the
Primate of the Diocese of Canada, His Eminence Bishop Bagrat Galstanian.
AGBU President Berge Setrakian presided in absentia, while Arden and
Kristine Dervishian served as honorary godparents. Remarks befitting the
occasion were delivered by Boghos Kichian, Chairman of the Jubilee
Committee; Garo Nshanian, Master of Ceremonies; Harout Shitilian,
Chairman of AGBU Montreal Executive Committee; Armen Bechakjian,
Executive Committee Chairman; and Artoun Hamalian, AGBU Director of
A lovely musical program was presented, consisting of a nice selection
of operatic arias performed by soprano Isabelle Metwalli, tenor Eli
Berberian, one of the promising young talents in the Montreal community,
as well as bass-baritone Garo Nshanian.
On this occasion, the sum of $100,000 was secured for the construction
of the AGBU Youth Complex on the grounds of the Alex Manoogian Center.
Former chapter chairman Boghos Kichian was presented with a special
memento in appreciation of his considerable effort in connection with
the jubilee celebration. In addition, the AGBU Central Board of
Directors, in appreciation of the $150,000-plus donations made to the
AGBU Montreal Chapter by national benefactors Jirair and Eliz
Dervishian, honored them with the title “AGBU Benefactor” and a special
certificate. In the absence of Jirair Dervishian, the certificate was
handed to his wife and their grandson, Jirair Arden Dervishian, by
Artoun Hamalian from the New York Central Office.
Nshanian then invited on stage the honorary godfather of the banquet,
Arden and Kristine Dervishian, as well as godfathers Arto and Minush
Artinian, Vatche and Ani Bechakjian, Diran and Sylvia Boyadjian, Jirair
and Eliz Dervishian, Mike and Karin Giragosian, Houri Hakimian, Harma
and Janine Kulian, Alex Gunther, Noubar and Hera Mouradian, and Aram and
Belinda Yacoubian, who received 50th-anniversary souvenirs.
The lighting of the candles on the 50th-anniversary cake was done in the
presence of His Eminence the Primate; Arman Hagopian; Artoun Hamalian;
Armen Bechakjian; former chapter chairmen, Boghos Kichian, Megerdich
Malkhasian, Garbis Aposhian, Vicken Attarian, as well as members of the
Montreal Chapter Executive Committee, Aram Yacoubian, Levon Kavaljian,
Kevork Piloyan, Mike Giragosian, Sylva Mangasarian and Harout Shitilian.
Published on this occasion was a Golden Book, an album-memorial book
containing a brief history of the chapter.
Honoring Past Chairmen
The celebration that was held on March 9 in the Alex Manoogian Center
began with a display of panels depicting the history of the AGBU
Montreal Chapter. A more extensive presentation thereof, including
slides highlighting the cultural, athletic, youth, scouting and Golden
Age group activities, was then given by three past chapter chairmen:
Megerdich Malkhasian, Eddie Yeghiayan and Boghos Kichian.
AGBU scouts Lori Boyajian and Razmig Barbarian recited poems by Vahan
Tekeyan. Well-known singer Arthur Apkarian and his band performed a
bunch of popular and patriotic songs, much to the delight of the guests.
Vahan Kazanjian, a veteran member of AGBU and one of the former chairmen
of the athletic committee, read the heartfelt messages of former
chairmen Garbis Aposhian, Vicken Attarian and Rita Kuyumjian.  Shahe
Tanashian, director of Manuel Keoseyan Armenological Studies, spoke on
behalf of the organization’s youth. Current Executive Committee Chairman
Armen Bechakjian expressed gratitude to all those who had a part in the
organization of the event, as well as conveying congratulations from
executive secretary Rahel Ourfalian. Arshavir Gundjian, Vice President
of the AGBU Central Board of Directors, also expressed words of
congratulations on this occasion, as did the Primate, Bishop Bagrat
Galstanian, whose benediction preceded the reception ending the evening.
More 50th-Anniversary Festivities
The 50th-anniversary celebrations of the AGBU Montreal Chapter continued
with a performance of 51 members of the Shushi Dance Ensemble of St.
Vartan Cathedral, New York, under the direction and choreography of Seta
Paskalian-Kantardjian, at Vanier College on April 12.  This event, which
was initiated by chapter chairman Armen Bechakjian and chaired by Boghos
Kichian, featured stellar performances by prominent musical director
Andranik Mouradian, and renowned singers Hovig Krikorian, Armen
Hovannesyan, Salpi Mailian, Rima Karapetyan, and Sosie Avakian
Mardirossian, along with a moving poetic recitation by Noune Avetisyan.
Haig and Shake Majarian sponsored the performance. Krikor and Rose
Dikranian’s generous contribution greatly helped to make it possible.
Still another event marking the chapter’s 50th anniversary was the
Mother’s Day banquet featuring the one-man show of veteran
director-actor Krikor Satamian. This most successful program, which was
attended by several hundred people, was held on May 11 in the Arshavir
and Nadia Gundjian Hall of the AGBU Alex Manoogian School. During the
banquet portion of the program, the following mothers were honored:
Vartouhi Avannes, Mary Kulian, Araxie Hakimian, Alice Manoogian, Eliz
Nahabedian, Lucy Boghosian, Ani Soukiassian, Sirvart Soukiassian and
Makrouhi Vasilian. Also honored was the chapter’s executive secretary,
Rahel Ourfalian.
Other Local Events
Following on the heels of these anniversary events were the commencement
exercises of the Armen-Quebec AGBU Alex Manoogian School and the “kef”
night organized by the AGBU Montreal Dance Club.
The commencement exercises, which were held on Father’s Day, June 15,
not only marked the end of the “Year of Excellence” but also were
equivalent to a true cultural festival dedicated to the centennial of
the birth of William Saroyan. On this occasion as well, school principal
Robert Kechayan informed that new computers had been installed in each
of the classrooms and that the nursery section would be complemented
with an annex, allowing for the admission of more pupils in the
kindergarten division. This year, there were 23 graduates from the
eighth grade, bringing the total number of graduates to roughly 2,000 in
the school’s 38-year history.
Finally, the “Keff Night” on June 16 constituted the spring season’s
finale of the AGBU Montreal Dance Club. Contributing to the evening’s
success were Jasmin, the Baladi dance teacher of the club; ballroom
dance teacher, Mrs. Gurlain; Hagop and Anahid Amirian; and club leader,
longtime AGBU volunteer Hasmik Khachikian.

AGBU NYSEC Presents 16 Rising Stars in Sept. 20 Carnegie Hall Concert: Proceeds to Benefit AGBU Scholarships for Performing Arts Students

NYSEC_Concert_Performers (Small)

As previously reported, the AGBU New York Special Events Committee
(NYSEC) will present “A Debut Concert” featuring 16 AGBU Scholarship
Program Performing Arts grant recipients at Weill Recital Hall of New
York’s famed Carnegie Hall on Saturday evening, September 20, 2008.
In addition to works by Dvorak, Mozart, Faure, Guastavino, Brahms,
Laginha, Joplin, Berberian, Babadjanian and Godoian, the program
features the U.S. premieres of original compositions by two of the
performing artists: Rhapsody for string quartet by Kevork Andonian and
the Dance of Spring by Tigran Martikyan.
Biographical highlights of the performing artists are presented below in
alphabetical order.
A pianist and composer, Hayk Arsenyan was born in Yerevan, studied piano
at Ecole Normal de Paris and received his master’s degree from the
Russian Gnessin Music Academy in Moscow. In 2007, he received a
full-tuition scholarship for Performance Studies at Manhattan School of
Music. He is currently working on his doctoral dissertation towards the
Doctor of Musical Arts degree and is a professor at New York University
Tisch School of the Arts in New York.
Kevork Andonian is a composer, pianist and educator, originally from
Ottawa, Canada, who is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in composition at
UCLA, where he is also a Teaching Associate. He holds a Bachelor of
Music degree from Carleton University. The recipient of many
scholarships and awards, he was also awarded the Carleton University
Medal in Music upon his graduation. In 2007, Andonian finished his
Master of Music in Theory and Composition from the University of Ottawa,
where he also taught as a part-time professor.
A prominent recitalist, soloist, chamber musician and recording artist,
Aroussiak Baltaian holds degrees from the University of Southern
California and the Guildhall School for Music and Drama. She is a Grand
and top prize winner of numerous national and international
competitions, including the MTNA Collegiate Composition (USA), the “Aram
Khachaturyan” International Competition (USA), the “Rudolfo Lipizer
Prize” International Competition (Italy), the “Maurice Warshaw Prize”
Competition in Great Britain and the “Yaroslav Kotzian” International
Violin Competition of the Czech Republic. She is also a member of the
Pasadena Symphony Orchestra and performs regularly with the Los Angeles
Sarkis Baltaian has gained an international reputation as a concert
pianist, chamber musician, recording artist and pedagogue. Having made
his Carnegie Hall debut in 1999, he has performed extensively, both as
recitalist and concerto soloist with major orchestras throughout the
United States, Europe and Australia. Baltaian attended the University of
Southern California, where he received the Bachelor of Music, Master of
Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. From 2002-2006, he served as
teaching assistant at the University of Southern California and was also
a member of the piano faculty at the California State University, Los
Angeles, from 2005-2008. Baltaian is an Assistant Professor of Piano at
the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
RAFFI DIMOIAN (French horn)
Although having started his career studying classical piano, which he
continues to play, Raffi Dimoian is better known as a French horn
player. He holds several academic degrees, having studied Western,
classical, jazz, West African Ewe and New Music performance at such
institutions as Academy of Music and Dance, California Institute of the
Arts (CalArts), and New York University (NYU). He is the recipient of
the first full scholarship award granted to a foreign student in the
history of CalArts, and the 2007 beneficiary of the Billy Joel
scholarship of academic excellence. He is also a founder of Groong, the
ensemble for traditional Armenian troubadour music, and Balkanto, the
Balkan brass band. Dimoian has been teaching brass instruments, piano
and jazz theory/improvisation extensively and is currently an adjunct
faculty member of NYU.
Ani Kalayjian has appeared in concert both as a soloist and chamber
musician in the United States, Canada and Europe. She received her
undergraduate education at Mannes College of Music, and then completed
her master’s degree at the Royal Northern College of Music. She recently
won the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust competition in England, where she was
also granted the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation Prize, and performed in
Prague in November 2006. Ani has participated in many festivals,
seminars, workshops and music sessions. Her passion for chamber music
has led her to performances on the Mostly Music chamber music series in
New Jersey, as well as a tour with Trio Nareg, with violinist Ani
Kavafian and pianist Armen Guzelimian.
A native of Yerevan, Lilit Kurdiyan received a Bachelor of Music degree
from the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory. Following her relocation to
the United States in 1998, she earned a second Bachelor of Music degree
from The Juilliard School of Music. In 2005, she joined the faculty at
the School for Strings in New York, where she teaches music theory.
Member and Assistant Artistic Coordinator of the eclectic HyeArt
Ensemble, Lilit regularly joins her Armenian contemporaries in
performances throughout the New York metropolitan area, the proceeds of
which are frequently donated to various causes.
Tigran Martikyan’s musical career began in his native Armenia.  After
graduating from the Tigran Chukajian Music School in 1988, he immigrated
to the United States and took up jazz. In 1998, he earned his bachelor’s
degree in jazz studies from the Manhattan School of Music, where he
continued his professional education and received a master’s degree in
music. Martikyan teaches, performs and composes music in New York City
and abroad. Since 2001, he has been the resident accompanist to “We
Dance,” a children’s ballet institute; in addition, he serves as the
musical coordinator of the esteemed New York Film Synergy Group, founded
by director/actor/producer Tom Lassu, in whose films he has worked as a
A Yerevan native, Sofya studied at the Royal Conservatory of Madrid,
graduating with the Highest Honor Prize. Following a period of private
instruction, she began post-graduate studies at L’Ecole Normale de
Musique de Paris, receiving the Diplome Superieure d’Execution.
Currently residing in New York, Meliyan recently completed her Master of
Music degree in piano performance at Manhattan School of Music of New
York. She has received several prizes; toured throughout Europe and the
US; appeared as a soloist with several orchestras; and appeared in solo
recitals, chamber music and concerti performances in various festivals.
In 2005, her piano duo was a winner of the Lillian Fuchs Chamber Music
Competition in Manhattan School of Music.
Mezzo-soprano Solange Merdinian began her music studies at age 3 in her
hometown of Cordoba, Argentina. In 2007, she graduated from The
Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice.  Recently she
has performance at a Carnegie Hall performance of the program “Piazza
Navona,” a soloist at Alice Tully Hall with the Juilliard Chamber
Orchestra and Choral Union, and an alto soloist with the Orpheus Chamber
Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum in the Bach Cantata Program.
Merdinian has also performed extensively with the Juilliard School opera
productions include Third Lady in “Die Zauberflote” and the role of
Indiana Elliot in a production of “The Mother of Us All.” She has
attended diverse summer programs, including L’Academie Internationale
d’Ete de Nice, the Chatauqua Institute, and the Aspen Opera Theater
Nazaryan received a Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School
in 2006 and is currently a first-year Master of Music student at the
same school. He has played with the Chamber Orchestra of New York, the
Chihuahua Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. He has held principal viola
positions with the Las Vegas and Chautauqua Music Festival orchestras,
and performed with the Juilliard School Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. In
addition to numerous solo engagements, Nazaryan has also performed at
the Las Vegas Music Festival, the Steinway Hall and the United Nations.
Vardan Ovsepian is an Armenia-born pianist/composer and a Fresh Sound –
New Talent recording artist.  He studied at the Melikyan Music College
and then entered Yerevan State Conservatory, majoring in Classical
Composition. Subsequently, he was accepted to the Estonian Music Academy
to study Contemporary Composition. In 1995, following his strong
interest and passion for jazz and improvised music, Ovsepian moved to
Finland to attend the Helsinki Jazz Conservatory. A few years later, he
was awarded a scholarship to study piano performance at Berklee College
of Music in Boston. Since graduating from Berklee in 2000, Ovsepian has
been teaching, as well as performing both solo and in groups. He is the
founder of the Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Ensemble, whose aim is to
interweave jazz improvisation with the traditions of European art music.
Cecee Pantikian has established herself as a respected performer often
praised for her impressive combination of virtuoso technique and
colorful musicality. In June 2003, she made her Carnegie Hall (Isaac
Stern Auditorium) debut, performing Khachaturian’s “Violin Concerto”
with the Senior Concert Orchestra of New York. She has also appeared as
guest soloist of the Bozeman Symphony Orchestra, Sofia Philharmonic
Orchestra, Manhattan School of Music Philharmonic Orchestra and the
Musica Bella Orchestra. She is a winner of numerous prizes and awards,
including the Waldo Mayo Memorial Award, the Competition for Young
Musicians in Bulgaria, and the Kozian International Violin Competition
in the Czech Republic. Pantikian holds degrees from Manhattan School of
Music. Currently she is a member of the Verbier Festival Orchestra and
the Chamber Orchestra of New York.
Born in Bulgaria, Hrant Parsamian started studying the cello under his
mother’s guidance. His first recital was at the age of six. Two years
later, he made his debut as a soloist performing C.P.E. Bach’s Cello
Concerto. Parsamian holds bachelor degrees from The Hochschule for Music
in Vienna and The Juilliard School, as well as a master’s degree from
the Yale School of Music. After finishing his fellowship with the
Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, he moved to New York, where he joined the
Haddonfield (NJ) Symphony Orchestra as Assistant Principal, as well as
the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
Parsamian, born in Sofia, Bulgaria, began his cello studies with his
mother and then moved on to the Sofia Music School. After coming to the
United States in 1995, he received his bachelor’s degree at the
University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree at Indiana University,
followed by Artist Diploma at Yale University School of Music. Parsamian
has received many scholarships and prizes; he has been awarded full
scholarships from several universities, and was granted an impressive
award to study at the Aspen Music Festival in 1996. Parsamian has played
with several orchestras in various parts of the US and he was a teaching
assistant at both Indiana and Yale. He is on the faculty in the
preparatory division of Manhattan School of Music and a member of the
New Haven Symphony Orchestra.
Karine Poghosyan has been described as an “extraordinary” and “larger
than life” pianist, whose playing “goes to the heart of the music.” She
made her orchestral debut at 14, playing Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No.
1,” and by the age of 23 she had already made her Carnegie Hall debut.
She is the winner of several competitions, and the recipient of half a
dozen scholarships. Poghosyan has appeared in quite a few recitals, as
well as a soloist with numerous orchestras. She is also an active
chamber musician, the winner of the Lillian Fuchs Chamber Music
Competition. In addition to her distinctions as a performer, Poghosyan
also demonstrated excellence in various academic endeavors. She received
her Bachelor of Music degree, summa cum laude, from California State
University, Northridge, and her master’s and D.M.A. degrees at the
Manhattan School of Music. Her doctoral thesis was “Aram Khachaturian
for Piano.”

AGBU Hye Geen’s Third Annual Conference Examines Status of Armenian Communities in the United States

Hye_Geen_Conf_01 (Small)

AGBU Hye Geen’s Forum for Armenian Social and Cultural Studies (FACSS)
held a one-day conference on April 12, 2008 at California State
University of Los Angeles, in conjunction with the college’s School of
Social Work, College of Health and Human Services. The subject of the
conference was “The Status of Armenian Communities Living in the United States.”
Opening remarks were delivered by Talin Yacoubian of AGBU Hye Geen’s
Young Circle. She first expressed her gratitude to Dr. Karin A. Elliot
Brown of the university’s School of Social Work for her continued
cooperation. She also thanked three youth organizations, namely the
Armenian Social Work Caucus, the Cal. State Los Angeles Chapter of Alpha
Epsilon Omega Fraternity, as well as AGBU Generation Next, for their
close cooperation.
The first speaker was Rev. Fr. Sarkis Petoyan of St. John Armenian
Church in San Francisco, who spoke about “The Faith, Church Membership
and Attendance Practices of the Armenian Baby Boom Generation.”
Next on the program was a panel presentation dealing with issues of
class conflict, social justice and oppression of vulnerable populations.
The panelists were introduced by Houri Keshishian, a member of Hye
Geen’s FACSS group.
The panelists presented their research on various fields, including Paul
Naccashian, owner and principal consultant with Collaborative Solutions
in Azusa, California, who spoke about “Conflict Mode Analysis of
Armenians in the United States: Similarities and Differences, a
Comparative Study”; Shakeh Baghdasarian, a graduate of the School of
Social Work at California State University of Los Angeles, broached the
subject of “Experiences of Armenian Homosexuals Living in the United
States”; and Dr. Martin J. Adamian, professor at California State
University of Los Angeles, spoke about “The Use of Law and Genocide: The
Armenian Experience.”
The panel presentations were followed by the introduction of the guest
speaker, Boghos Levon Zekiyan, by AGBU Hye Geen founder and chairman,
Sona Yacoubian. Zekiyan is an ordained “vartabed” of the Armenian
Catholic Mekhitarist Order and the founder of the Venice Ca’foscari
University’s summer intensive course in Armenian language and culture
under the aegis of his Padus Araxes Cultural Association. Yacoubian paid
tribute to the scholar theologian, a professor of Armenian Church
institutions at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome, as well as a
member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. Zekiyan spoke
about “Women’s Role in the Armenian Society as a Factor of Mutual
After the lunch break, Saro Ayvazian, of the Alpha Epsilon Omega
Fraternity at CSU-LA, spoke about his organization’s range of
activities. The presentation was followed by a second session dealing
with “The State of Armenian Youth in Los Angeles.” Ara Arzoumanian,
director of the prevention-based AGBU Generation Next Mentorship
Program, spoke expertly about his program in the Glendale-Pasadena
region; and Osheen Keshishian, publisher/editor of the English-language
The Armenian Observer weekly, faculty member of Glendale Community
College and guest lecturer at California State University, Northridge,
spoke about “The Reflection of the Genocide in the Works of Armenians
Who Write in English.”
The final feature of the conference program was a roundtable discussion
focusing on issues facing the Armenian-American youth of Southern
California. Moderated by Tamar Kevorkian, columnist for The Armenian
Reporter, the participants were Fr. Vazken Movsesian, a priest serving
various Californian churches for the past 25 years and Executive
Director of In His Shoes Ministries, a faith-based organization to rally
support and assistance for people in areas hit by genocide; Melina
Sardar, educational director of Ark Center in Glendale and case manager
at the AGBU Generation Next Mentorship Program; and Arlette
DerHovanessian, a behavioral psychologist, program director in the
Department of Early Education and Extended Learning Programs in the
Glendale Unified School District.
This thought-provoking conference concluded with the closing remarks of
Nayiri Nahabedian, chairperson of FACCS.

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.