By Gilda Buchakjian (Kupelian)
The Seasons banquet hall was abuzz with guests at the AMAA/HAIGAZIAN UNIVERSITY FRIENDSHIP DINNER graciously hosted by Serge and Anita Buchakjian on February 7, 2015. Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) Board members from near and far, Haigazian University (HU)Trustees, alumni, and friends were delighted to help celebrate the only Armenian University in the Diaspora in high spirits, camaraderie, and philanthropy.
In his welcome address and words of thanks to the attendees, Serge Buchakjian, member of the Haigazian Board of Trustees offered a few heartfelt words about his first alma mater on the occasion of its 60th anniversary this year. How fortuitous that Haigazian University was the launching pad for his education and career in the aerospace industry, only two decades after the production of the first rocket ever in the Mideast led by Manoug Manougian and his Haigazian University team. Buchakjian underscored the fact that in addition to preserving the Armenian heritage, Haigazian University “impacts lives beyond just education. It teaches tolerance and fosters a culture of understanding through the open exchange of ideas across ethnic and religious backgrounds.” He was proud to call Haigazian University “a jewel of a university” hoping that it will prosper well over its 60th anniversary.
Rev. Berj Gulleyan, pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church of Paramus, NJ was invited to say grace, with an inspirational invocation.
The new Executive Director and CEO of the AMAA, Zaven Khanjian was pleased to ascertain that education was the legacy contributed by the Armenian Evangelical Community to the nation and our people. Khanjian spoke of the pioneering work in creating ”a colossal network of educational institutions from kindergartens to elementary and secondary schools, institutions of higher education – colleges and schools of theology. We have pioneered in the education of women, introduced music and physical education and raised the level of literacy, education, enlightenment and culture within our people.” The Genocide “severed the trunk of our existence. It wiped out innumerable dreams and the unlimited potential of a nation.” Still, continued Khanjian “out of the ashes the Phoenix rose again, the AMAA was born in 1918. Education took precedence. Schools were built again and spread wherever our remnants took refuge. Visionaries were active again and so in collaboration with the AMAA, Haigazian was born.” Mr. Khanjian concluded his remarks by praising the spirit of philanthropy that has supported the efforts of all those who stood steadfast behind this institution.
As a token of appreciation, Mr. Khanjian offered the hosts, Serge and Anita Buchakjian, whose wedding anniversary coincided on that day, a sculptural artifact of the ark on Mt. Ararat, by Michael Aram, symbolizing overcoming adversity and reaching new heights.
The dynamic president of Haigazian University, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidotsian thanked the hosts, the AMAA, and its Board members for their support. Dr. Haidotsian pointed out that “2015 coincides with the 60th anniversary of Haigazian University and that many events and celebrations will be planned in Beirut, Dubai, and the USA. But more meaningfully, our institution is named after a famous educator, Armenag Haigazian, who fell victim to the Genocide, and we are honoring and paying homage to his legacy as well.”
“How can one tell whether Haigazian University is still true to its mission and successful at that?” was president Haidotsian’s leading question. “Our graduates are doing very well in graduate programs around the globe; they are successful in the job market; our financial aid office is one of the most central functions at HU, and the support of the Syrian Armenian students was yet another testimony about that. Our community outreach, research and publication efforts are bearing fruit and we are regularly organizing conferences and educational events. We are still preparing leaders for the community, and acting as bridge-builders among all parties. What will sustain these efforts is the need for ongoing and generous support of everyone in more significant ways than before.”
Joyce Philibosian Stein, staunch supporter of Haigazian University for decades, following in her parents Stephen and Sirpuhi Philibosian’s footsteps was happy to herald the call for continued philanthropic efforts to help sustain the level of excellence achieved by Haigazian University, over the years, for its students. Tina Siegel, the apple that has not fallen far from the tree, continues her commitment for this institution of higher learning, that has remained a solid beacon of erudition despite years of trials and tribulations. Tina’s journey with HU began when she overheard her mother and uncle repeatedly use the words AMAA and Haigazian in their household. That piqued her interest and after visiting the University with her parents, embarked on her philanthropic work following in her parents Joseph and Joyce’s footsteps.
Friends and alumni in good spirits including AMAA President and HU Trustees Chair, Dr. Nazareth & Dr. Ani Darakjian, Haigazian University Board members Gary Phillips and his wife Arsine, Hasmig Baran and her husband Arsen, Harry Najarian and his wife Cheryl, Robert Kurkjian, AMAA Past President Andy Torigian, West Coast Executive Director Levon Filian, Dr. Raffy and Shoghag Hovanessian, Khoren and Seta Nalbandian, Maurice and Berjouhi Gulesserian and many more enjoyed a cheerful evening replete with “joyful noise,” good food, music and dancing, and all for a good cause. After all, as Serge Buchakjian so aptly put it “heat warms the body, but friendship warms the heart.”