Time in Los Angeles -
Melkonian Educational Institute
The Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) is an Armenian boarding school of high academic standard
located in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Established in 1926, it was the only remaining boarding school servicing students of the Armenian
Diaspora from nearly 40 countries.
Melkonian's current status is uncertain.
Formerly financed by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, a decision to cut off funding in 2005
caused controversy among the Armenian community and especially among former pupils.
The Melkonian Institution was created as an orphanage in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of
191 5 - 1923. Zaven Patriarch of Constantinople was the first Director of this Institution, who in
April 1926 undertook the heavy task of traveling and collecting over 300 orphans, boys and girls,
amongst thousands of children left destitute on the plains of Eastern Anatolia and in the neighboring
countries as a result of the Armenian Genocide. The Melkonian Institution as a safe haven is therefore
regarded as being closely connected with the dark pages of the early 20th century Armenian History.
The hundreds and thousands of orphans that were provided with shelter, sustenance and schooling by
dint of the enormous gift bequeathed by Garabed & Krikor Melkonian benefactor brothers, confirm this.
On Friday, February 15, 1924 the foundational stone was laid and the construction of Melkonian Estab-
lishments began in Nicosia. Melkonian School opened its gates 2 years later in 1926.
The Melkonian Brothers
Krikor Melkonian and Garabed Melkonian are widely regarded as the greatest benefactors of the
Armenian nation. They were prominent tobacco traders from Egypt. In the aftermath of the Armenian
Genocide they decided to establish this school in Cyprus. To that end, they liquidated all their assets
and established the Melkonian Fund and entrusted the management (and not the ownership) of the
Melkonian School to the AGBU. Both brothers are buried at the School grounds, at the open space
between the two main buildings. A beautifully designed marble monument with intricate engravings
and the bronze busts of the Melkonian Brothers prominently stand as a gesture of eternal gratitude to
their memory. For thousands of Melkonian graduates and friends this is a sacred place.
The Forest of Remembrance
Along the Limassol Highway, occupying the foreground of the Melkonian campus, there is a grove
of cypress trees, hundreds and thousands of them. This grove is a significant landmark and has a
historic and sentimental value to the Armenian Nation. These trees were planted in the early years
of the Melkonian Institute by the orphan students in memory of their loved ones and of the millions
that perished during the Genocide. Nowhere else in the world, not even in Armenia, the Armenian
Genocide is memorialized in this manner. Cyprus government has officially listed this forest.
In the summer of 1974 as a result of Turkish invasion of Cyprus numerous bombs were dropped
on Melkonian grounds and buildings causing devastation.
In 1986 a quarter of the Melkonian Estate was sold off at, what many regard as a ridiculously low
prices (the legality of this act is also questioned). The aim was to reinvest the money in a new
Boarding House, a closed sports complex and a commercial centre. All these projects went ahead.
At the time, the 6 - storey Melkonian Commercial Centre (MCC) was built on Melkonian territory
so as to generate income for the school in order to make it financially less dependent from the
AGBU. By 1989, the rent started to trickle in and eventually the CYP 1.75 million loan was paid off.
In recent years the MCC was generating enough money to support the school. According to 2003
figures MCC generates over $650,000 annually as it collects rent from Cyprus Tourism Organization
(offices), the Army Officers' Cooperative, the firm of Philipou & Guevherian, a tutoring centre,
a restaurant (Crescendo) and a row of shops (Elements of Style, Constantinou Communications,
Duxiana, a toy store, an advertising agency, an Internet café, etc), all of them tenants at the Melkonian
The AGBU has been heavily criticized for the fact that the income from the MCC rent has never
reached Melkonian School and has been going directly to the AGBU.
The first rumors about the closure of Melkonian Educational Institute started circulating in the Summer
of 2003. On November 17, 2003 an alumnus led and wel l - coordinated campaign to resist the rumored
closure was established. After months of paid advertisements and heavily funded PR campaigns by the
AGBU informing the public that they do not intend to close down and sell the Melkonian, on March 14,
2004 AGBU CB voted unanimously in favor of the closure. The official decision was published 2 days
afterwards on March 16, 2004.
The new boarding houses were constructed in early 1990s for both boys and girls living in opposite
wings of the complex. Alex Manoogian's statue is prominently featured at the centre of the court yard.
The boarding section has a capacity of accommodating circa 400 boarding students. The houses also
include a cafeteria, where boarding students would receive their breakfasts, lunches, dinners and suppers.
There are also various areas dedicated to indoors recreational activities within this building.
The on - call supervisors and the resident nurse also have their offices and quarters inside this complex.
Teaching, Boarding and Activities
Music and Drama
Scouts and Guides
School magazines and Publications
Melkonian students used to publish Hayatsk, which was a newspaper run by and edited by the students
themselves. AIG was the annual yearbook for Melkonian graduates.
Hokehamkist - a ceremony dedicated to remember the Melkonian brothers and their charitable deed
is carried out annually to this day by Melkonian Graduates. Also other events, such as dinner-dance and picnic,
are organized by Melkonian Alumni and Friends of Los Angeles, California, to bring togethere the graduates.
Old Melkoniantsis, the MEI Alumni
Growing up in close near - familial environment Melkonian graduates (Melkoniantsi) remain friends
many years after their graduation. Many Melkoniantsis, both old and young, see themselves as being
part of the same "Melkonian family". A number of well organized and very active MEI Alumni chapters
are established in all continents of the globe. Of all Armenian schools Melkonian has produced a widely
disproportionate share of Armenian Diaspora's prominent writers, intellectuals, academics, doctors,
musicians, politicians, community leaders, persons of political influence and public figures on international
stage. Some of prominent names associated with Melkonian, only to name few, include Vahan Tekeyan,
Kevork Ipdjian, Vahan Bedelian, Sebouh Apkarian, Haig Naccashian, Haigashen Ouzounian, Vartan Tashchian,
Varoujan Hairabedian, Benon Sevan, Akabi Nassibian, Vartkes Kourouyan, Noubar & Yervant Aghishian.
There are scientists, chemists, doctors, scholars, linguists, painters, poets, editors, school principals, teachers.
Finances and Fees
The Campaign to Save Melkonian
In 2003 an Alumni led campaign to resist the closure of Melkonian began. SaveMelkonian.org was
established as campaign's information outlet, and soon attracted the attention of press, TV, political
parties and numerous cultural and charity organization both in Armenia and Diaspora. Joined with
Melkonian Alumni & Friends in California, which was established early in 2004 as a non-profit organization
to preserve and protect the Armenian heritage, first and foremost, the Melkonian Institute in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Many other like - minded organizations formed. Save Melkonian campaign has a series of achievements in
resisting AGBU's decision, which many in Armenian Diaspora regard as purely profit - driven.