ALPINE–NJ–More than one hundred people gathered in the spacious and beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. Vahe Nahapetian Saturday evening–August 28–for an elegant dinner party which raised more than $100,000 for the General Dro Leadership Institute. The Institute is a project sanctioned by the Armenian government which has already contributed sizable resources for the project. When completed the Institute will be a model place of learning where Armenia’s will learn the concepts and traits necessary to become strong leaders and provide Armenia’s leadership the capability of functioning effectively in an increasing complex world.
With $57,000 raised through the dinner party–the total was increased because of the generosity of well known community leaders Mr. and Mrs. Vahakn and Hasmig Hovnanian who agreed to match the amount because of their strong belief in General Dro’s ideals and the principles behind the Leadership Institute. The Hovnanians who had a prior commitment that evening were able to join the guests for dessert. Other key contributions came from Mr. and Mrs. Galust and Emma Sogoian–Mr. and Mrs. Tro and Anna Piliguian–Mr. and Mrs. Antranig and Varsen Sarkissian–Mr. and Mrs. Arshag and Takoush Tarpinian and through the efforts of Shakeh Nahapetian $5000 was procured from a grant given by AIG International.
Cocktails and appetizers were served indoors and a sit-down dinner took place outside under a clear starlit sky. Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan–Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the United States and Canada–offered the prayer before dinner. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian–Primate of The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America–was unable to attend because of a prior commitment–however sent his best wishes in creating The General Dro Leadership Institute "to prepare our leaders of tomorrow."
The after-dinner program included commen’s by His Excellency Ambassador Movses Abelian–Permanent Representative to the United Nations who offered his understanding of the Institute and his government’s commitment to its goals. "Last year the return of Dro’s remains to his homeland and the building of a monument to the great hero was suggested by the Armenian government," said Abelian. "General Dro’s family was very receptive to this idea–but felt that the monument should not be a ‘monument of stone’ but rather a ‘living memorial’ to help Armenia’s future leaders."
Delivering two major addresses were Colonel Hayk Kotanjian–Military Attach to the Armenian Embassy and Dr. Vartiter Kotcholosian Hovannisian. Col. Kotanjian provided a vivid picture of the legacy of Dro and his true place in the history of the Armenian nation. "Today," he said–" we have the honor to once again remember one of Armenia’s greatest heroes – General Dro."
Dr. Kotcholosian-Hovannisian recalled how because of Dro–her family and countless others–were saved. During World War II–Dro was able to save the lives of thousands of Armenia’s (approx 500,000) living in Germany occupied territories from a grim fate under the Nazis. The displaced persons camp in Stuttgart–Germany contained approximately 3,000 people and was disbanded by 1948–with most of these people emigrating to the United States.
Mardig Kanayan–General Dro’s son–shared some of his memories and why he is so dedicated to the project. He thanked the Armenian government for giving their complete support. "My father always told me," he said–"that no matter what I am or what I become–always remember that you are an Armenian before anything else." Concluding his remarks–he expressed thanks to the New York-New Jersey committee for their months of hard work. He especially thanked Zivart Balikjian who undertook many of the committee tasks and to the hosts of the evening Mr. and Mrs. Nahapetian. The formal opening of the Institute is expected to coincide with the return of Dro’s remains to Armenia which is scheduled for May–2000.
From its founding–the Republic of Armenia recognized that it needed a school to train its civil servants–its administrators–diplomats–ministers–negotiators–etc.–in a manner that combined the practices of the Western World and the uniqueness of the needs of Armenia. The Armenian government suggested the idea of the school in honor of General Dro–and the family readily agreed. More than that–the family agreed to undertake the entire cost of raising the necessary funds–while the Republic of Armenia would provide the buildings to house the Institute and would also manage the school when it was established. The Institute will not be under the control or influence of any political group–internal or external.
The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund was chosen to oversee the construction of the school. Armenia Fund has the staff and experience with such projects as well as the integrity of purpose that will ensure that the funds will be well managed and the project will reflect their good record of accountability and quality control.
Therefore–since it was obvious that the bulk of the funds would be raised in the United States–the Kanayan family logically turned to AFUSA–which agreed to adopt this as a special project–to provide its know-how to help this effort–in addition to its current national giving campaign. This Institute–when completed–will serve all ministries and the Civil Service in Armenia and will be staffed in such a way that it will cover all aspects of leadership training.
General Drastamat (Dro) Kanayan (1884-1956) played an integral role in the events leading up to and during the first Armenian Republic (1918-1920). Dro also had an important role in saving the lives of Armenia’s during World War II.
Dro was an important partisan leader and also fought with the Russian Army against Ottoman Turkey in 1917. He was wounded in action with a bullet in his lung–which remained with him the remainder of his life.
Crucial battles during May 23 through 27–1918 were the turning point in declaring an independent Armenia. Dro’s troops defeated elemen’s of the Turkish 3rd Army in a crucial victory at Bash Abaran located on the approaches to Etchmiadzin and Yerevan. Coupled with Armenian victories at Sardarabad and Karakilisseh–the first Armenian Republic was declared on May 28–1918. Dro and Aram Manukian were responsible for running the Yerevan district until a provisional government could be formed.
After World War II–he continued his service to the Armenian people on several fronts. His activities include the establishment of a Diasporan infrastructure as well a working with the United States and other anti-Communist forces until his death in 1956 in Boston.
Committees have been formed in various parts of the US and Canada.