ANAHEIM—The spirit of giving was in the air this past Sunday at an event supporting the School of Humanities. Garo and Sylvie Tertzakian opened their home and their guests generously opened their hearts and wallets to support UC Irvine’s continued course offerings in Armenian history. This marks the fourth year the Tertzakians have hosted fellow Armenians from the Orange County community, with this year’s event raising close to $80,000, more than the past three years combined. 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.
Shahen Halebian, an ‘09 UCI alum, who was able to take one Armenian history course while an undergraduate, talked about his own experience and how the class left him wanting to know more and wishing there were more courses offered. Nora Injeyan, a current graduate student in the Department of History, shared her own positive experience taking Armenian history courses and echoed the wish that there had been more classes available.
Professor Levon Marashlian, who regularly teaches the course offering in modern Armenian history, noted the appeal of Armenian history courses beyond those students with an Armenian American background —25% of students enrolled in the courses are non-Armenians. A former student of Professor Marashlian’s, Syuzanna Petrosyan, commented on how proud it made her to see non-Armenians taking the courses.
History professor Touraj Daryaee, who was instrumental in the first establishment of Armenian history courses in the School of Humanities, addressed the importance of Armenian history in a global context and also his desire to see future courses in Armenian language and literature. He talked about the quarterly series of public lectures – made possible through gifts to the program – that offer opportunities for the local Armenian community, and the wider Orange County public, to learn more. This past year the series included lectures by Sebouh David Aslanian on his book From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa and Tom Mooradian on his memoir The Repatriate: Love, Basketball and the KGB which chronicles his 13 years behind the Iron Curtain as an Armenian Repatriate.
With a new fundraising goal surpassed, the momentum created at Sunday night’s event shows no signs of slowing down. A transformational gift for the effort was made by Dr. Vahe Meghrouni and his wife Armine, who generously donated $50,000 to start an endowment fund in support of Armenian culture, language and heritage. Dr. Meghrouni called it a “seedling” gift that he hopes will eventually lead to an endowed faculty chair in Armenian Studies.
“Despite being conquered and disseminated around the world, we’re still here and we’re not going away,” Meghrouni said. “We’re here today because of the legacy of our forefathers… the Armenian mind, the Armenian spirit, and the Armenian heart.”
Garo and Sylvie Tertzakian announced that in addition to their annual gift to be used immediately towards funding Armenian history courses that they would be augmenting their support to include a gift to the endowment fund, “so that it starts growing from day one.” Many present at the event followed Garo and Sylvie’s lead and made additional gifts to the endowed fund.
Sylvie told the group, “Because of what we’re doing, our culture will survive.”
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.