GLENDALE—The Kalemkiarian family recently established two scholarships at the American University of Armenia in memory of the family patriarch, Paul Kalemkiarian (1928-2022), and matriarch, Rosemarie Kalemkiarian (1927-2020). These scholarships will be awarded to students with excellent academic performance, affording them the opportunity to study at AUA.
Paul Hagop Kalemkiarian was born on October 20, 1928, in Cairo, Egypt. His parents, Hagop and Siranush Kalemkiarian were survivors of the Armenian Genocide who had fled Turkey and settled in Egypt. There, the family grew with the addition of Paul’s sister, Susan, and brother, David. Paul grew up learning to speak Armenian, Turkish, English, French, and Arabic and was active in the local chapter of the British Boy Scouts. He excelled academically and also in tennis at English Mission College. With a keen interest in science, he aspired to study pharmacy, but getting into medical school at the time required strong connections.
The scale tipped in his favor when Paul’s mother, Siranush, who ran the British canteen at the Cairo train station, befriended one of the British volunteers whose husband was the dean of Pharmacy at King Farouk University. Through this connection, Paul had the chance to interview with the dean and gain admission despite the term having already begun. Paul’s academic excellence quickly placed him at the top of his class. However, recognizing the prevailing political situation in Egypt, Paul’s father, Hagop, urged him to leave for the United States.
In 1949, Paul arrived in New York City with the support of his relatives, then made his way to Los Angeles, embarking on a budding new life and career. There, he continued his studies at the University of Southern California (USC), earning a master’s in pharmacy. Gaining knowledge in pharmacognosy, he conducted original research on the production of atropine from the datura plant, one of the only known antidotes for treating nerve gas.
At USC, he established the first student pharmacy as a training site for pharmacy students. Inspired by his first success in that initiative and having gained experience working at pharmacies in the area, he taught a class at the University on pharmacy stocking and pricing. He then founded his first business, the Prescription Shops, which expanded to five locations and a medical supplies rental business.
In Los Angeles, Paul met the love of his life, Rosemarie Danelian, at an Armenian church event. Their union lasted 65 years and blessed them with three children: Brent, Sharon, and Paul.
Rosemarie Danelian Kalemkiarian, born on April 14, 1927, in Evanston, Illinois to Jack and Siranoush Danelian, also hailed from a family of Armenian Genocide survivors. While still young, Rosemarie’s family moved to Los Angeles, where she and her two younger brothers, Richard and Lawrence, were raised.
Rosemarie attended public schools in Los Angeles and graduated from Hollywood High School in 1945. In high school, she was active in selling bonds in support of the war. She also possessed remarkable skills playing the piano and was elected Queen of Job’s Daughters — extracurricular successes that made her parents proud.
Rosemarie had a passion for learning from a young age. Though she faced numerous challenges on her path to success, she was determined to overcome societal norms that restricted women’s career opportunities and advancement. Notwithstanding the discouragement she received from the University of California, Los Angeles, career office, Rosemarie pursued her dream, majoring in Spanish and psychology. Having graduated with teaching credentials, she taught fourth graders, consistently encouraging her students to strive to reach their full potential.
Paul and Rosemarie complemented each other as partners, raising their children and building multiple businesses together. Paul had a hobby and interest in wines, which grew with the acquisition of a pharmacy that included a liquor store, subsequently leading to the establishment of the renowned Palos Verdes Wines and Spirits. His success marked the launch of the original Wine of the Month Club, a national multibillion-dollar industry he founded in 1972. Rosemarie contributed to WOM by writing a recipe column, hosting winemakers, and promoting club membership at state fairs.
Rosemarie also made her mark as a businesswoman, serving on various bodies, including the PTA, Inglewood Library Board, and as the first woman elected to the Palos Verdes Estates City Council in 1977. Her love for auctions and antiques led to the creation of Auctioneer’s Gavel and Hallmark Silver Ltd. Additionally, her passion for cooking resulted in the establishment of RK Cakes, a mail-order bundt cake business.
As their family grew with the arrival of grandchildren, Paul and Rosemarie cherished every moment with their loved ones and embraced a slower pace of life. They moved to San Diego, residing in Julian, which became a beloved place for entertaining their grandchildren, and later Escondido, where they grew avocado and other fruit trees.
In their golden years, Rosemarie and Paul kept busy documenting their lives and sharing their wisdom in the books they authored. Paul wrote about the family history and published his father’s bible concordances of the “New Testament,” as well as biographies of his father and grandfather, Boghos Kalemkiarian. Rosemarie authored a cookbook featuring cherished recipes and traditional Armenian favorites, which she distributed to family and friends.
Throughout their lives, Paul and Rosemarie not only worked diligently but also relished simple pleasures. “Even at the end of her life, she was determined to figure out why she felt tired and what could be done to turn around her health,” their daughter Sharon reflects on her mother, adding, “She was so smart, wise, and touched so many lives, very directly, and her advice was always cherished.”
The children drew inspiration from their parents’ strong work ethic and took charge of the family’s various business endeavors. “Dad taught us the value of self-discipline, whether in taking care of one’s health, business, or home,” Sharon fondly remembers. “He was always gracious — not expecting anything from others but asking what he could do for them. He was curious about everything and always tried to find the best in people,” she adds.
The Kalemkiarians instilled in their children the importance of honoring the legacy of their ancestors and recognizing the resilience they demonstrated. Now, by planting seeds at AUA through establishing two scholarship funds, they are enabling future generations to carve their own paths to success and pave the way for a brighter future for Armenia.
AUA expresses deep gratitude to the Kalemkiarian family for this beneficent and lasting gift to the University. The “Paul Kalemkiarian Memorial Scholarship” will support AUA students in business and economics, while the “Rosemarie Danelian Kalemkiarian Memorial Scholarship” will aid female students studying diplomacy, public affairs, or political science for years to come. The rich Kalemkiarian legacy will continue to inspire future generations of students to pursue their academic goals and make a positive impact in their homeland.
To learn more about establishing scholarships, visit the website.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values. AUA’s Office of Development stewards the University’s philanthropic efforts exclusively for educational purposes.