Local Armenian Community Raises $22,000 for Armenian History Courses at UCI

IRVINE, CA–Although it felt more like an intimate family gathering than a fundraising event for the School of Humanities, the guests gathered at the home of Garo and Sylvie Tertzakian this past Sunday night generously gave to support the school’s continued course offerings in Armenian history.

This is the third time the Tertzakians have hosted fellow Armenians from the Orange County community and the $22,000 raised exceeded everyone’s expectations. Sylvie, a former adjunct professor at Chapman University; and Garo, a renowned specialist in urology, are committed to seeing quarterly courses offerings in Armenian history grow into a bona fide Program in Armenian Studies with an endowed chair in Armenian history.

Vicki L. Ruiz, dean of the School of Humanities, echoed the Tertzakians’ enthusiasm for growing the program and cited the school’s already strong faculty base in Near East studies. Recent UCI graduate Erna Mamikonyan spoke about her own experience taking an Armenian history course with visiting lecturer Levon Marashlian.

Although born in Armenia, Erna admitted to being unaware of much of her birthplace’s history. She was inspired by Professor Marashlian’s course to pursue undergraduate research through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) in topics such as the Armenian Question and the Armenian Genocide, and now feels a deeper connection to her own history.

History professor Touraj Daryaee, who was recently awarded the 2010 Brismes Book Prize for his book Sasania Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, and was instrumental in establishing course offerings in Armenian history, noted the appeal of Armenian history courses outside of the Armenian American population, with course enrollments typically comprised of at least 20% non-Armenian students.

A series of public lectures, made possible through gifts to the program, also offers opportunities for the local Armenian community, and anyone interested, to learn more. When Translation is Not Translation: Barriers to Translating a Popular Armenian Writer into English, with Professor Nasrin Rahimieh will kick off the 2011 series. (More details to come.)

With a new fundraising goal achieved, the momentum created at Sunday night’s event shows no signs of slowing down. Sylvie announced the formation of a community board comprised of Seda Yaghoubian, George Mooradian, Krikor Mahdessian, and Serge Tomassian, who will spearhead efforts to spread the word about efforts in the Humanities and to garner increased support.

The School of Humanities is grateful for their support and hopeful that this is only the beginning of a bright future for Armenian Studies at UCI.

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