BY CHRISTINA MOUGHAMIAN
Members of the San Francisco Bay Area Community gathered at Green Hills Country Club on Friday December 9th to honor and pay tribute to Professor Stephan Astourian. The evening celebrated the service and contributions of Professor Astourian who retired from his role as Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program and Associate Adjunct Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley.
Dr. Astourian arrived in the Bay Area in 1998 for a one semester visiting professorship at UC Berkeley’s Center for Slavic and East European Studies. Through his hard work and dedication that one semester position developed into a full-fledged program with academic credibility offering courses in history, comparative genocides, Diasporas, Armenian language, Armenian literature (in Armenian as well as English) and culture. The Program also offers an annual conference as well as numerous lectures during the year.
Throughout the evening testimonials were given praising Professor Astourian for his service and achievements, as the Director of the UC Berkeley Armenian Studies Program as well as a community leader. Adam Kablanian, who had served as chairman of the fund raising committee for the Armenian Studies Program, recalled how his working relationship with Stephan had developed into an important and cherished friendship. He also emphasized Prof. Astourian’ s unique role in organizing the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide commemoration in 2015. Dr. Myrna Douzjian, professor of Armenian Language and Literature at UC Berkeley, recounted that she had the privilege of being both a student and colleague of Dr. Astourian and emphasized how Stephan had influenced his students, even beyond Armenian Studies. Special guest, Antranig Kasparian thanked Dr Astourian for his ability to inspire the youth. Additionally, video clips were sent from Yerevan (Prof. Levon Abrahamian), Paris (Prof. Raymond Kevorkian), New York (Berge Sedrakian), and Los Angeles (Carmen Ohanian) emphasizing Stephan’s impact on organized community work and post graduate Armenian Studies, as well as wishing him well in his retirement.
A spellbinding cultural program highlighting pianist Mariam Abgarian and violinist Ani Bukujian was preformed to the delight of the attendees. Pieces by Liszt, Babajanian, Khachaturian, Bach, Komitas, and Bagdasarian were selected.
The evening ended with Professor Astourian taking the podium to thank the community for the wonderful event. In his remarks he emphasized the importance of investing and supporting Armenian education in the diaspora at all levels from elementary schools to college. He also thanked his wife Ani and his family for their support throughout his career.
All proceeds from this event are designated to support The Friends of Armenian Soldier and Family in particular the “Nor Ej” project which helps Armenian veterans with their educational development guiding them to train and gain skills to reenter working life.