Merdinian School Banquet Highlights Plans for New High School

UNIVERSAL CITY–The Universal Sheraton Hotel Roof Garden was, on March 2 the celebration site of the 26th anniversary of the Charlotte and Elise Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School. Peter Kougasian, an Assistant District Attorney of New York City was Keynote speaker. He spoke about the importance of an Armenian Evangelical education such as the one offered at Merdinian. He shared how his ancestor’s Armenian Evangelical faith and education continues to influence him.
Kougasian, works in the office of Robert Morgenthau– gran’son of Henry Morgenthau, the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He relayed a warm message from Morgenthau. He shared how the Morgenthau family are fierce partisans of the Armenian people in the world today stating “Armenian blood flows through their veins and whenever there is an Armenian cause, they can always be counted on to try to bring a sense of justice.”
The evening began with the honoring of Armenian history and language teacher Ashkhen Ispendjian. Board of Directors Chairman, Dr. Hrair Atikian honored Ispendjian for her 25 years of devoted service to the students and school. She came to Merdinian after serving in Lebanon as a teacher and principal for 20 years. Here, she not only taught Armenian language and history, but prepared textbooks for these courses when no such books existed. Ispendjian expressed her appreciation for the honor and confessed she “lied” to her students claiming no knowledge of English in order to encourage their use and understanding of Armenian.
Former students honored her. Duduk player Armen Kvryan, performed a musical piece and Greg Martayan, stated, “Merdinian is not just a school feeding into college prep schools. Merdinian is the prep school for life.”
Also honored were individuals who have served 15 years or more on the Board of Directors. The late Alice Haig was highlighted as the “First chairperson and moving force behind the school from its inception 27 years ago.” Accepting her award posthumously was her husband, Dr. Vahe Pierre Haig. The other honorees were: Zaven Khanjian, Koko Balian, Samir Ekmekji, Hratch Sarkis, and Dr. Nazareth Darakjian,
Dr. Steve Aharonian, AMAA President, encouraged the gathering to continue their financial support for the growth of the school–pledging AMAA’s support by raising 10% of the cost. A conditional-use permit for the new expansion has been granted as of this printing, adding 13,100 square feet on the same school site for a high school. The projected cost is about $7 million. The student population will have the capacity to increase from 260 to 650.
Principal Hovsep Injejikian stressed the importance of a high school by stating; “When the students leave us at the end of middle school, they are still teenagers. They are not fully committed to their Armenian Christian heritage.”
Master of ceremonies Dr. Nazareth Darakjian stated how the school started with, “a few visionaries and with a lot of faith and hope.” Miss Elise Merdinian made the school possible by donating her entire estate to the AMAA.
An architectural drawing of the proposed new high school was proudly exhibited by the building committee consisting of Samir Ekmekji, Dr. Hrair Atikian, Hratch Sarkis, and Herair Mouradian. Evening co-chairpersons Helga Sarkis and Seta Nalbandian, along with their committee, were encouraged by the enthusiasm shared by the evenings large crowd and some impromptu donations. The Lark Musical Societies Women’s Acappella Chorus provided the musical portion of the evening under the direction of Maestro Vatsche Barsoumian.
From the humble beginning in 1982 with only 13 students and no campus of their own, Merdinian has developed into this unique Armenian Evangelical School shaping the lives of hundreds of students as they envelop their Armenian Christian heritage coupled with a first class education. Elise Merdinian’s dream was realized beyond her expectations.

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