SAN DIEGO, Calif.—The silver lining in the recent tragic passing of Armenian Bar Association student member Andre Kazangian became a brilliant and enduring memento as he was posthumously awarded an honorary Juris Doctor degree and nine of his fellow classmates were awarded generous Armenian Bar scholarships in his name.
Under the warming rays of an all-encompassing sun on a roof-top terrace overlooking the deep blue waters of the San Diego Bay, more than one hundred family and friends gathered at Thomas Jefferson Law School on November 5, 2016, for a very special memorial event in honor of a young man who died far too soon, but whose grace and example touched the hearts of so many.
Joining the dozens of law school faculty and students at the commemorative luncheon were Armenian Bar Chairman Saro Kerkonian, Board Member Armen K. Hovannisian, and Student Affairs Committee Co-Chair Lucy Varpetian. They, in turn, were greeted by several local members of the Armenian Bar who had gathered to offer homage and to witness the presentation of the inaugural Andre Kazangian Memorial Legal Scholarships.
Following a soothing and spiritual invocation by Father Datev Tatoulian, Professor Chris Guzelian endowed the event with meaningful context: “Armenians are a people guided by their Christian faith who can respect well the cultures of others, including those guided by law. Andre understood this. He was among the finest of our youth. The love he offered is evident from the thousands who attended his memorial and the many of you who are here today.”
Armen K. Hovannisian evoked currents of compassion when he stated: “Dear Vahik, Meline, and Allen, losing a child and losing a brother no matter what age breaks your heart in ways and places that you never knew existed, and only you know that empty and hollow feeling. You are survivors of the unspeakable. You are carriers of the untenable. More than that, though, you are the greatest examples of strength, of dignity, of hope, and ironically, of a forward-looking future. The future that you represent and have ensured with your generosity pumps strong in the hearts and minds of all of the students gathered here today.”
Then, the eminent Dean of the law school, Thomas Guernsey, rose to the podium, heralded Andre’s emblematic virtues and tendered the honorary law degree to Andre’s family. On behalf of the Kazangian family, Andre’s father, Vahik, imparted a heartrending message: “My son left, but he’ll never leave our hearts. He will always live on for us. Thomas Jefferson School of Law has now given a part of Andre back to us. You have recognized his hard work, dedication and commitment which we will always cherish. And for that, we are eternally grateful. While we will have difficult times ahead, your being here today to honor our son will become a special memory for us to help us through those days and each and everyone of you here today will forever hold a special place in our hearts.”
Prior to the presentation of the nine $1,000 scholarships, which were underwritten by the Kazangian family, Chairman Saro Kekonian crystallized the momentousness of the occasion: “We are honored to have been able to participate in this special ceremony to remember and honor the beautiful and loving memory of Andre Kazangian. We look forward to joining with the Kazangian family in the future to continue to assist Armenian youth achieve their dreams and aspirations in the memory of their son.”
The students who received the inaugural Armenian Bar Association’s Andre Kazangian Memorial Legal Scholarship were Meline Grigoryan, Natalie Keshishian, Tro Semerjian, Nare Keshishyan, Arthur Kostanian, Anna Dzhabaryan, Lilian Avedian, Renia Zadourian, and Soseh Axian. They and several other students publicly shared their personal stories of friendship, loyalty, and love for Andre.
Armenian Bar Student Affairs Committee Co-Chair, Lucy Varpetian, encapsulated the Association’s feelings of rapture and respect: “We are so deeply grateful to the Kazangian family that, out of the unimaginable loss which they suffered, they have chosen to memorialize the legacy of their son Andre by assisting Armenian law students to complete their legal education. Their most thoughtful commitment will have a lasting, positive impression on the students for years to come in the warm memory of Andre.”