BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
BEVERLY HILLS—In what has become an anticipated tradition in the community, the Armenian Cultural Foundation held its Gala Banquet on Sunday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the organization’s 40th anniversary of service was celebrated by more than 350 supporters, benefactors and leaders who came together to honor long-time benefactors and activists Hacob and Mina Shirvanian.
Visibly moved and humbled by the exuberant standing ovation, the Shirvanians each spoke about their individual impetus to serve and dedicate their lives to the betterment of the Armenian-American community and the Armenian Homeland and thanked the ACF for naming them the “Couple of the Year,” on the organization’s 40th anniversary.
Their message was equally moving and humbling, because they explained their decades-long commitment and dedication to the various causes and organizations they have supported as being in service of future generations and the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
In presenting the honorees, Dr. Viken Hovsepian, enumerated the various arenas and projects that have had the imprint of the Shirvanians, highlighting their most recent donation of $50,000 to the “We Are Gyumri” campaign for the completion of the construction of a Youth Center in Gyumri. The Shirvanians then announced that they were upping their gift by donating an additional $10,000.
In his remarks, Hovsepian also thanked and acknowledged those present, whose unwavering financial support of the ACF has enabled the organization to advance its mission of enhancing the cultural and educational needs of the community and has elevated the youth to become active and critical components of the community life and the national struggle.
Hovsepian specifically thanked Mr. and Mrs. Varant and Hoori Melkonian who were the sponsors of the Gala, highlighting the couple’s decades-long unwavering support of the ACF and its mission. The couple were invited to the stage, where Hovsepian presented them with a first edition coin, specially minted on the occasion of the ARF’s 125th anniversary as a token of the ACF’s appreciation for their continued generosity and support.
Hovsepian also took the opportunity to announce that long-time community activist from Fresno, Ohannes Bouladian has bequeathed his entire estate to the Armenian Cultural Foundation. Hovsepian praised Bouladian for his vision to entrust the ACF with his estate and pledged that the organization will ensure that a new generation of Armenians will become beneficiaries of his generosity.
Hovsepian also outlined the importance of the Fresno community as the historic backbone of the United States Armenian-American community and expressed hope that the ACF and other organizations will make Fresno a focal point of their activities.
A decades-long resident of Fresno, Bouladian made his home in the United States in the early 1970’s, before which he was an active member of the Lebanese-Armenian community, and was known for his generosity in addressing the needs of that community.
A highpoint of the evening came when Vatche Thomassian, a young and energetic member of the ARF Western US Central Committee, delivered remarks on behalf of that organization.
“We are able to do what we do, and be who we are because those that came before us set us on a path motivated to make our tomorrows brighter than our yesterdays,” said Thomassian who added that “The vision and commitment of the ARF and the ACF is to continually create, adapt and grow. Building a community and a nation one piece at a time. Always looking toward the future. “
Saying that success can be measured in numbers, Thomassian pointed to the 160,000 “March for Justice” on April 24, the millions of dollars raised for Syrian-Armenian relief efforts and the continuing successes of Armenian schools and community centers, as well as the capacity-packed ARF 125th anniversary as examples of accomplishments that have engaged the community.
“We are a pan-national movement where the only interests we serve are the interests of our people,” explained Thomassian.
In recognizing the continued commitment of ACF supporters, Thomassian said, “You are, however, our shareholders. And the dividends we have to show you are in the form of a new generation more educated, more innovative, more impassioned and more ready to bring together our collective strength for the visions and ideals you instilled in us.”
The evening’s program began with welcoming remarks by Nare Kupelian and Garen Kirakosian both members of the ARF Shant Student Association.
“I am a strong believer that the community is always reflected in the individual. Today, my work is an amalgamation of the experiences and opportunities that I have been given. I am a fourth year Ph.D student in the history department at UCLA. My research interest focus on the development of Armenian intellectual history,” said Kupleian.
“As students and young professionals, we stand at the helm of a defining time for an ever-changing Diaspora community. With the resources, backing and institutional support of the ACF, we are at the nexus of our historical evolution as an organization,” added Kupelian.
In his remarks, Kirakosian reflected on his family history and an impetus and a catalyst for his active involvement in the community and to highlight the ACF’s role in advancing the just aspirations of the Armenian community and the Armenian Nation.
“My great-grandfather was a delegate to the 8th World Congress in 1914 and my grandfather was the secretary to Roupen Ter Minassian when he served as the Minister of Interior in the First Armenian Republic,” said Kirakosian. “For a hundred years my family has been actively involved in the work of the ARF. Through my family’s collective experience, I have learned that this work is only made possible by the help of ‘Hamagirs’ like you and your contributions to the ACF.”
They were followed by the performance of the US National Anthem by Toukhman Khatchadourian and the singing of the Armenian National Anthem by 7-year-old Isabelle Karadolian, who not only captured the nationalistic elements of the song but also energized the gathering by her impeccable and able performance.
After the evening’s invocation prayer said by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies, Dr. Mireille Hamparian opened the official program. In her remarks she recounted the role the ACF has played in her life saying that because of the ACF she became an active member of the community and an activist for the Armenian Cause. She then invited ACF 40th anniversary Gala committee chairwoman Elizabeth Boyajian, who thanked the supporters of the ACF for their continued dedication and generosity.
She also introduced the audience to abstract artist Arthur Sarkissian, who had donated limited editions of a lithograph especially created for the ACF and the Gala, and announced that the guests would receive a copy as an appreciation parting gift. Boyajian also thanked Caroline Tufenkian of Tufenkian Fine Arts Gallery for facilitating the creation of the lithograph series.
During the evening, Pattyl Aposhian-Kasparian served as the evening’s announcer, introducing the guests in attendance. Among the many luminaries Aposhian-Kasparian introduced Californian State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, who is running for the state 24th Congressional District; State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian; Los Angeles City Council member Paul Krekorian; Glendale Mayor Ara Najiarian; Glendale City Council member Zareh Sinanyan; Glendale City Clerk and candidate for the California State Assembly’s 43rd district Ardashess “Ardy” Kassakhian; and the recently re-elected Montebello City Council member Jack Hadjinian.
Throughout the evening, the Greg Hosharian Quintet performed selections, while well-known singer Erik Karapatyan’s performance capped the evening’s festivities. Singer Heibert Sarian, accompanied on the oud by Antranig Kzirian entertained the audience with powerful performances of patriotic songs. Also performing was Aida Sargsyan. Musical performance during the cocktail reception was arranged and executed by flutist Salpi Kerkonian.