BY PATTYL APOSHIAN KASPARIAN
LOS ANGELES—From under a burgundy umbrella, across from the famed Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an Angelino gazed over our private event. “What’s going on behind the velvet ropes?” she asked in a rather curious voice. “It’s a three-part fundraiser to celebrate the 60th anniversary of an Armenian University,” I responded expecting her interest to wane. Instead, her intrigue grew wanting to understand the university’s role in the marvelously complex social world of politics and democracy. I explained to her that “Haigazian University is in Lebanon, but its reach is far and wide—with many supporters living in Southern California.”
“Such beautiful people on the red carpet. Such a fitting and elegant setting,” she compliments and makes mention of how adorned the women are in their gowns and jewels– her voice just above a whisper. “This is the hidden society of people who genuinely care about their heritage, their culture. Very powerful.” Her soft meaningful words resonate with me. She’s right! This scene has great significance. My perspective suddenly shifts from being that of an attendee in the crowd to a focused observer of a historical moment.
I felt a heightened sense of pride for being invited, attending and experiencing the perfectly set event–a new sense of allegiance for the cause. Under the star-lit sky, across the harmonically gushing fountains in the middle of The Plaza and the parallel rays of lights from the colorful spotlights of the Ahmanson Theatre, more than three hundred supporters gathered to celebrate Haigazian University’s sixtieth anniversary and to ensure that the future of Armenian youth is filled with hope. This beautiful crowd gathered together in the spirit of fundraising to create better opportunities for future generations of Armenians. Inspiring!
I felt compelled to bow and nod my head in grace and thanks as I made eye contact with the perpetually jovial co-chairs Harry Nadjarian and Tina Segel with their spouses. “It’s time! Let’s go be amazed with talent!” Nadjarian said in merriment as he rounded up the invitees on the way to the second part of this night of gratitude.
I did not imagine that what was to come of the evening would be so magical. First, the world famous tenor and conductor, Placido Domingo, in the title role of Woody Allen’s production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi began the production. Next Domingo mounted the podium to conduct Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.” The two visually spectacular performances presented moments of surprise and laughter to a tearful and melodramatic end.
But wait, there’s part three!
The evening continued in the prestigious Grand Hall where guests of the Anniversary Celebration dined and mingled during the Gala Supper.
As promised, Placido Domingo and several other performers joined the guests for late supper. Co-Chairs Nadjarian and Segel introduced the President of Haigazian University, Dr. Paul Haidostian who shared his uplifting vision and highlighted the bright direction of the university, a pathway being made possible with a $6 million expansion campaign fund.
Placido Domingo concluded the program with humor, charm and a humble story about caring Armenians he knew in his youth. It was the final touch to a perfect evening.
In an unprecedented show of generosity, the tireless performers, committee and volunteers met their objectives—to raise funds, engage the community, foster awareness and celebrate Haigazian’s success. To date, over $1.8 million has been raised for Haigazian University’s expansion campaign fund.
These funds are for a great purpose. Haigazian University remains the only Armenian university in the diaspora. Over 3,000 alumni and thousands of supporters worldwide understand how their impact is felt far and wide. And thanks to the bystander and her inquisitive approach, my ability to enjoy this impactful evening left me especially great-hearted and proud as the red carpet reached its destination.