Armenian Genocide Survivor Leaves an Enduring Commitment to Helping Armenian Americans Start Careers in Government, Politics, and the Media
WA SHINGTON–The estate of the late Armenian American industrialist and philanthropist Norair K. Deirmengian (Norman Miller)–in a move that is helping expand the presence of Armenian Americans on the U.S. civic landscape–has made a $36,000 grant to support the growth of the ANCA’s Capital Gateway Program, an innovative initiative that opens doors for young Armenian Americans seeking to start government, public policy, political, and media- related careers in Washington, DC.
“Norair Deirmengian, in the best of both of our American and Armenian traditions, believed in our youth and in investing in our future,” said Ken Hachikian, the President of the ANCA Endowment. “Through this wonderful gift, which we hope will be the first of many, the Miller estate is empowering young Armenian Americans, opening doors to public service careers for the sons and daughters of our community, while strengthening the presence of Armenian Americans throughout Washington, DC.”
The grant is made through a bequest that will be managed by the Norman K. Miller Charitable Trust, under the oversight of Norair’s children and grandchildren. Funds from the bequest, which has been established to advance Miller’s commitment to the Armenian community and Cause, will be used to expand the capacity of the program and its ability to accommodate those who otherwise would lack the financial means to participate.
“It is fitting that our Dad left an enduring donation to assist underprivileged Armenian youth in their quest for success,” explained Ms. Flossie Mohler. “His belief in offering a helping hand to those who are willing to work to succeed will live on for years to come. This donation to the Capital Gateway program will help make the program available to those who otherwise would not be able to afford the opportunity to seek careers in government positions.”
Norman Miller: A Life-Long Supporter of the Armenian Cause
Norair K. Deirmengian was born in 1914 in Kasken Maden, near Istanbul (then known as Constantinople), while his mother was seeking to escape the horrors of the Armenian Genocide along with her two young sons. His father had been killed prior to his birth. His mother found refuge for the family in Romania, where Norair was placed in an orphanage. Norair excelled academically and was sent to Murat Rafael Armenian College Preparatory School in Venice, Italy. After graduating in 1935, he immigrated to the United States where he was reunited with his family and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Norair was thankful for the freedoms found in his new country. Not yet a citizen, in 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was sent to the South Pacific where he played instrumental roles in the Battle of Layte and the Guadalcanal Campaign. During his service, he showed his inventive talents by developing a method of cushioning military tank interiors to prevent injuries and was issued a commendation for creating a method to repair and improve the Reisling gun.
He returned to Philadelphia to start a manufacturing business with his two brothers. Originally known as Miller Brothers, Miller Edge grew to become an industry leader in safeguarding for motorized doors, gates and automated machinery markets. Under his leadership, Miller Edge was issued over 100 patents in the U.S. and abroad. He was recognized multiple times for his professional achievements.
Norair was always thankful for the freedoms and successes he found in the United States. He also kept a special place in his heart for those suffering in his Armenian homeland. Norair and his family first traveled to Armenia in 1975 while Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union. Following the devastating Armenian earthquake of 1988, he organized the collection of used copier and fax machines. The machines were refurbished at the Miller Edge warehouse, packed with clothing for cushioning and sent to Armenia to help businesses rebuild. He made his second trip to Armenia in 1993 during the war in Karabakh, where he joined the Armenian troops for three months. In 2004, he donated the funds required for the construction of a water treatment plant in the Armenian village of Nor Gatashen. Prior to his donation, the people of this village had no clean running water. In 2007, he donated a classroom to the Armenian Relief Society Daily School at St. Mary’s in Toronto, Ontario.
Deirmengian was laid to rest on January 24, 2009 at Arlington Cemetery in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, following funeral services held at St. Gregory The Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church.
Armenian American Youth in Public Policy: A Capital Idea
Now in its eighth year, the Capital Gateway Program helps place qualified Armenian Americans in Congressional offices and in other political and policy-making positions throughout Washington, DC. Launched in August 2003, the program seeks out and assists Armenian Americans across the U.S. in exploring job opportunities in government, the media, and think tanks in Washington, D.C. The program builds on the successful 27-year old ANCA “Leo Sarkisian” summer internship program, which has brought hundreds of youth leaders to Washington, D.C. to learn about the American political process and the growing role Armenian Americans play in advancing a broad range of advocacy issues.
Qualified Program Fellows are provided free housing at the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway House, and full use of ANCA facilities and staff support in their quest for the right job or internship in the Nation’s Capital. More than 75 participants in the program have found full-time, paid positions in a myriad of locations including with Members of Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Export-Import Bank, Congressional Quarterly, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Established through a generous donation from the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the Capital Gateway Program, over the years, has benefited tremendously from the generosity of donors committed to creating public service opportunities for young Armenian Americans.
A leading financial contributor to the Program has been the family of Hovig Apo Saghdejian, a 23-year old youth leader and community activist from Fresno, California, who lost his life in 2004 in a tragic car accident. His family established the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund in his memory. Substantial support has also been provided by The Lincy Foundation, longtime ANCA benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Barbara Hekimian, and the Armenian American Veterans Post of Milford, Massachusetts (AAVO).