CALIFORNIA MELKONIAN ALUMNI

THE A.G.B.U. CALIFORNIA MELKONIAN ALUMNI was founded in May, 1979, at the A.G.B.U. Larchmont Center in Los Angeles by a group of dedicated Melkoniantsis who had a deep feeling of gratitude toward their Alma Mater, The Melkonian Educational Institute, in Nicosia, Cyprus. Most of these Melkoniantsis had been settled in Los Angeles and other areas of California since the 1950s and the 1960s. They used to meet with each other quite frequently to socialize and reminisce about the memorable experiences of the good old days they spent together at the Melkonian Educational Institute. The number of Melkoniantsis gradually increased in Southern California with the arrival of new members in the 1970s. The time was ripe for the formation of an organized body when the principal of the Melkonian Institute, Mrs. Sossi Bedikian, sent a letter to all the Melkoniantsis all around the world, asking them to get organized and begin to support their Alma Mater, The Melkonian Institute. The inception of the California Melkonian Alumni was a positive response to Mrs. Bedikian’s appeal. The founding members, Paul Kousharian, Zohrab Shammasian, Zaven Berberian, Sarkis Shahinian, Melik Ananian, Movses Meymarian, and Dr. Artin Kokshanian, were soon joined by a group of enthusiasts including Mark Chenian, John Maronian, Verkine Missirian, Jirair Magarian, Garo Kassabian, Sam Youssefian, who were followed soon by Kevork and Silva Agopian, Vartkes and Alice Kourouyan, Khatchig Tashdjian, Asbed and Aida Pogharian, Bedros and Seta Baghjajian, and others.

PURPOSE:

The main purpose of the California Melkonian Alumni is to provide moral and financial support to the Melkonian Educational Institute, and to cooperate with the Central Board of the A.G.B.U. to transform the Melkonian into a self-sufficient Institute, capable of not only maintaining its strong academic tradition, but also adapting to the highest educational standards and rapidly changing curricular trends in many advanced countries of the world. Along with high academic standards, The Melkonian Educational Institute has instilled a strong sense of national pride and a deep appreciation of Armenian cultural values in many generations of young Armenians who have assumed leading roles in their communities in a great number of countries all around the world. The California Melkonian Alumni strongly encourages and demonstrates a deep commitment to provide support to the School Board and Administration to maintain and enrich the cultural programs, a distinctive tradition of the Melkonian Educational Institute for so many decades.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Since its inception in 1979, the California Melkonian Alumni has sent about $225,000.00 directly to the the Melkonian Educational Institute to be used for a variety of purposes, including the purchase of computers, science lab equipment, apparatus and chemicals, audiovisual aids, copiers, and materials used to upgrade the library and the classrooms. A considerable part of this sum was used for the direct needs of students who were unable to afford basic costs. In 1991, the California Melkonian Alumni established the “Melkonian Alumni Endowment Fund” which has grown to a remarkable sum of about $330,000.00. The assets of the fund are kept with and managed by the A.G.B.U. The proceeds of the fund are put at the disposal of the California Melkonian Alumni who send them to the Melkonian Educational Institute at the request of the principal, to be used for a specified purpose. At present the annual proceeds are about $25,000.00. The major cotributers of the fund have been: Zaven Berberian, who donated $50,000.00 in 1996, and then an additional sum of $25,000.00 in 1997, both for the Endowment Fund.( Zaven has also donated an additional sum of about $30,000.00 for the immediate needs of the Melkonian Educational Institute on various other occasions ). Yenovk Balikian who donated the “ Asdghig Balikian Memorial Fund” for this purpose, in memory of his late wife. John Maronian who established and donated the “Dickranouhi Maronian Memorial Fund”as an integral part of the Melkonian Alumni Endowment Fund in memory of his late aunt, Dickranouhi Maronian, who had served the Melkonian Institute for about 40 years. Other major contributers are: Dr. and Mrs. Artin Kokshanian, Dr.and Mrs. Daniel Abdulian, Dr. and Mrs. Kevork and Cecile Keshishian, Jack (Hagop) Maxian, Mr.and Mrs. Jirair Magarian, Mr.and Mrs. Sarkis Kaltakjian, Mr. Arsen Demirdjian, Mrs. Rita Balian, Mrs. Hrip Chaderjian, Dr. A. Nassibian, Mr.and Mrs. Hagop and Betty Sagherian, Mr. Michael Naccashian, Mr. and Mrs. Panos Haitayan, Dr.Serge Maronian, Dr. V. Igidbashian, Dr. and Mrs. Harout Mesrobian, Mr. Panos Keleshian, Mr. and Mrs. Kevork and Sevan Kalenderian, Mr. and Mrs. Avedis Manoogian, Mr. Varoujan Hairabedian, Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis Yacoubian, Mr. and Mrs. Noubar and Dickranouhi Mekhsi-Kevorkian. In addition to these major contributers, a large number of members have pledged $1000.00 each, payable over a period of 10 years ( $100.00 per year ). Mr. Zohrab Shammasian is in charge of collecting the pledges and transferring them to the AGBU Center in New York.

THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND MEMBERSHIP:

The California Melkonian Alumni has about 400 members on its mailing list. Any member is eligible and encouraged to join the executive committee. The committee consists of about 16-20 members who serve on a voluntary basis. Any member who demonstrates a readiness or willingness to serve is welcome to join the committee. The Committee elects a chairman, a vice chairman, a treasurer, and a secretary every year, right after the Annual Dinner-Dance, usually held in March. The chairman or the chairlady serves for a term of about one year .( Some have served for about two years or even more ). The following is a list of those dedicated members who have served as chairmen since 1979: Paul Kousharian: 1979-1982, Mark Chenian: 1982-1983, Melik Ananian(deceased): 1983-1984, Dr. Artin Kokshanian: 1984-1985, Zohrab Shammasian: 1985-1986, Sarkis Shahinian: 1986-1987, Movses Meymarian: 1987-1988, John Maronian: 1988-1989, Samuel ( Sam ) Youssefian: 1989-1991, Zaven Berberian: 1991-1992, Bedros ( Peter ) Baghjajian: 1992-1993, Kevork Agopian: 1993-1994, Hagop Keoshkerian: 1994-1995, Verkine Missirian: 1995-1997, Asbed Pogharian: 1997-1998, Berjouhi Yerganian: 1998-1999, Hagop Halladjian: 1999-2000, Hagop Hairabedian: 2000-2001, and JIRAIR MAGARIAN: 2001-2002, GARO KASSABIAN: 2003------ ( the present chairman ).

ACTIVITIES:

The main activities that are organized traditionally on an annual basis are:

1. The annual BANQUET or DINNER-DANCE,

Usually held in March, but on some special occasions it has been held in May, July, or December.

2. The annual PICNIC, held in the summer ( July, August, or September ).

3. COMMEMORATION DAY,

In mid-January, on the occasion of St. John the Baptist ( Sourp Hovhannou-Garabed ) holiday, the Benefactor’s Name Day. On that day the Melkoniantsis go to church, almost invariably to the St. John Cathedral on Vine Street in Hollywood, to pray for the souls of the Melkonian brothers, Agha Garabed and Agha Krikor . After the “Hokehankisd” they assemble in Arshag Dickranian School’s Assadrian auditorium for “Hokedjash” which is a luncheon for the souls of the Melkonian brothers, in accordance to the traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church. After the food is served they attend an appropriate program for that occasion. In addition to these traditional activities the California Melkonian Alumni organizes a number of other activities every year. Some of those have been:

* A CHORAL CONCERT in September, 1984. Mr. Sebouh Abcarian, the longtime music and art teacher of the Melkonian Educational Institute was invited to Los Angeles to conduct a choir consisting of Melkoniantsis and members of the A.G.B.U. Sardarabad choir, at the Glendale High School Auditorium, in the presence of close to 700 people, under the patronage of His Excellency Mr. Andreas Kiprianides, the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in Los Angeles, and presided by Dr. Daniel Abdulian.

*A TRIP TO ARMENIA AND CYPRUS, in 1986, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute. At the celebrations held at the Melkonian campus, the visiting committee members led by the chairman, Zohrab Shammasian, presented a check of $12,000.00 to the principal, Dr. Akabi Ekmekdjian, for the purchase of computers for the students.

* JUBILEE CELEBRATION, in 1986, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute, at the AGBU Larchmont Center, in Los Angeles.

*TRIP TO MELKONIAN ( CYPRUS ), in 1989, organized by the California Melkonian Alumni, to attend the INAUGURATION of the opening of the newly constructed buildings and other facilities on the Melkonian campus.

*A SPECIAL PROGRAM TO CELEBRATE the 65th anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute, in 1991, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center, in Pasadena.

*JUBILEE CELEBRATION, in the summer of 1993, to honor MR. SEBOUH ABCARIAN for 40 years of service to the Melkonian Educational Institute, as Music and Art teacher, conductor, and organizer of cultural activities. Mr. Abcarian was the central figure in the rich cultural tradition of the Melkonian Istitute for four decades. *A SPECIAL PROGRAM TO HONOR Mrs. Sossi Bedikian, the former principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, for 40 years of service as teacher and principal, first in Beirut, Lebanon, at the AGBU Tarouhi Hagopian school, and then in Cyprus, at the Melkonian Institute. The event was held in the summer of 1994, at the AGBU Alex Manoogian Center, in Pasedena.

* ACTIVITIES TO HONOR PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, AND OTHER MELKONIANTSIS.

The California Melkonian Alumni has organized numerous other activities, on various occasions to honor former principals and teachers, as well as distinguished Melkoniantsis who were either invited by the California Melkonian Alumni, or happened to come to Los Angeles as visitors.To mention some of those: • A special program and reception to honor Mrs. Sossi Bedikian, the principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, on the occasion of her visit to Los Angeles.The event was held in August, 1980, at the AGBU Larchmont Center, in Los Angeles. • A special event to honor Mr. Hovhannes Shoehmelian, in 1982, long time teacher, and later a board member of the Melkonian Institute. Mr. Shoehmelian was well known as the translator of the works of William Saroyan into Armenian. • A cocktail reception, in the summer of 1982, at the Arshag Dickranian School auditorium, to honor a group of Melkoniantsis on a visit to Los Angeles, including the former principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, Mr. Assadour Bedian, his wife Mrs. Yenova Bedian, as well as Mrs. Hermine Bekarian and Ms. Teghtsanig Boyadjian from Cyprus, Mr. and Mrs. Krikor and Sossi Sagherian from Toronto, Canada, and Mr. and Mrs. Hratch and Ashkhen Arzumanian from Kuwait. • A program followed by a reception to honor Mr. Varoujan Bedikian, in the summer of 1983, as a tribute to his 30 years of service as a teacher, poet, and a community activist. Mr. Bedikian, a 1949 Melkonian graduate, had served as a teacher at the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian School, in Beirut, Lebanon, and later at the Melkonian Institute in Cyprus. • A memorial program, dedicated to the late Vahram Mavian, in 1983, at the Garabedian Hall in Hollywood. Mr . Mavian, a well known writer and a poet, had served the Melkonian Institute as a teacher for quite a long time, before he was invited to Lisbon, Portugal, to chair the Calouste Gulbenkian Scholarship Fund’s Department of Armenian Affairs. • A reception and a special program to honor Ms. Hrip Karakashian, in 1985, at the AGBU Larchmont Center. Ms. Karakashian had served the Melkonian Institute as a teacher, supervisor of the Girls, and the founder of the Girls Scout movement at the Melkonian Institute. • Reception and an informal program to honor Mr. Stepan Baghchedjian, in 1986, at the AGBU Larchmont Center. Mr. Baghchedjian had served the Melkonian Institute for more than 25 years as a manager, with a wide range of responsibilities, including the purchase and transportation of food items and various other needs for the students. • An evening to honor Dr. Haroutune Essegulian, in 1989, at the AGBU Larchmont Center. Dr. Essegulian , a 1936 graduate of Melkonian, had earned his Ph.D in Belgium. He had served the Melkonian Institute as a teacher for more than 25 years. He had also served the Armenian Elementary School, in Nicosia, as its principal, before he emigrated to Canada with his family to settle in Montreal. • A memorial program dedicated to the late Varoujan Bedikian, as a tribute to his literary legacy, in July, 1989, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center. • An evening to honor Dr. Akabi Nassibian-Ekmekdjian, long time teacher and former principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, and the author of the book Britain And The Armenian Question. The book was presented by Aram Arkoun. The event was held in March, 1990, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center. • A special program to honor former teachers, organized mainly through the efforts of the chairman of the California Melkonian Alumni, Mr. Sam Youssefian, in October, 1990, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center. About 22 people who had served the Melkonian Institute in the past, and who were living in Southern California, were honored, each being awarded with a special plaque. • Exhibition of Paintings of the renowned Cypriot Armenian artist Vartan Tashdjian, organized by the California Melkonian Alumni, in July, 1990, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center. Mr. Tashdjian , a 1959 graduate of Melkonian, had served the Melkonian Institute as a teacher ( 1966-1975 ) , and later was appointed as the principal of the Nareg Armenian Elementary Schools in Cyprus. • A special program to honor the world renowned artist, Hagop Hagopian, in March, 1993, at the AGBU Alex Manoogian Center, in Pasadena. Mr. Hagopian, a former Melkoniantsi, earned his fame after he emigrated to Soviet Armenia in 1963. He still lives in Armenia with his family. • An evening with Garbis Sourenian, in March, 1995, at the Tekeyan Beshgeoturian Center. Mr. Sourenian, a graduate of Melkonian, emigrated to Soviet Armenia in 1946. He is a respected writer, translator, and intellectual.

* FUND RAISING ACTIVITIES: The Annual Dinner-Dances have often served as appropriate opportunities for fund raising for the Melkonian Educational Institute. In addition to these, a number of active Committee members have organized Potluck- Luncheons in their own homes . Some of those dedicated members have been: Movses Meymarian, Paul Kousharian, John Maronian, Zaven Berberian, Dr. Garo Bouldukian, Jirair Magarian, Dickran and Verkine Missirian, and others. The establishment and the growth of The Endowment Fund has been one of the most remarkable achievements of the California Melkonian Alumni. It is a reality today because of the the generous donations of its contributers who believe that the Melkonian Educational Institute should continue its mission in the Armenian Diaspora. However , it owes its success mainly to the hard work and relentless efforts of Zohrab Shammasian, who heads a special committee for fund raising .

*MAJOR EVENTS ORGANIZED BY THE CALIFORNIA MELKONIAN ALUMNI AN UNPRECEDENTED REUNION OF MELKONIANTSIS IN LOS ANGELES:

On the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute, an unprecedented reunion of all the Melkoniantsis took place in Los Angeles, in July, 1996, at the Universal Hilton. The event was organized by the Executive Committee. The chairlady of the Committee was Mrs. Verkine Missirian. The Committee had appointed Mr. Zohrab Shammasian as the person in charge of organizing the reunion which was planned for a period of three days, Friday, July 5 to Sunday, July 6, 1996. About 600 Melkoniantsis were present. They had come from many different parts of the world : the East Coast and the midwestern states of the United States, Canada, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Greece, Germany, Denmark, England, Costa Rica, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Australia. Friday,July 5, 1996. An evening to welcome the visitors. An appropriate program was followed by a reception. The Master of Ceremonies was Movses Meymarian. After the program, the gathering continued in an informal atmosphere. Some classmates and schoolmates were meeting one another for the first time 35-40 years after they departed from the Melkonian Institute. Saturday, July 6, 1996. 70th Anniversary Gala Banquet, followed by a Candle lighting ceremony performed by the major contributers to the Endowment Fund. The Banquet Chairman was Zohrab Shammasian, and the Master of Ceremonies was Vartkes Kourouyan. The Gala Banquet was presided by Zaven Berberian (a 1951 graduate of Melkonian) who donated $50,000.00 for the Endowment Fund on that day. The chairlady of the California Melkonian Alumni, Mrs.Verkine Missirian, delivered a welcoming message. She was followed by Zohrab Shammasian who, in his message, proposed the idea of forming an International Melkonian Alumni to provide a collective support to the Melkonian Institute. The keynote speaker was Benon Sevan ( a 1958 graduate of Melkonian ) a high ranking diplomat in the United Nations Secretariat. Congratulatory messages were delivered by Mr. Armen Baibourtian, the Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, by Mr. Andreas Kiprianides, the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in Los Angeles, and by Dr. Mihran Aghbabian, member of AGBU Central Board, and the president of the American University of Armenia. At the height of the celebration the Melkoniantsis were honored by the visit of His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia who delivered his congratulatory message and gave his blessings to all those who were present. Sunday, July 7, 1996. A breakfast was followed by a special program . The M.C. of the program was Asbed Pogharian. Then, at 2:00 pm, there was An Open Forum, organized and conducted by Zohrab Shammasian, where Melkoniantsis from various parts of the world expressed their opinions about the future of the Melkonian Institute. Then they elected members for a newly formed Melkonian Alumni International, under the chairmanship of Benon Sevan. The most remarkable achievement of the Melkonian Alumni International has been the publication of a Newsletter, edited by Asbed Pogharian.

*SPECIAL FUNDRAISING BANQUET FOR THE ENDOWMENT FUND.

A special fundraising Banquet was held in December, 1997, at the Anoush Restaurent in Glendale. The guest of honor was Ms. Ani Lachinian, the new principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, specially invited from Cyprus on this occasion. Also present was Mr. Benon Sevan, the chairman of the Melkonian Alumni International. Mr. Sevan, a 1958 graduate of Melkonian, is a high ranking diplomat at the United Nations Secretariat, and a member of the AGBU Central Board. Most of the Melkoniantsis and the guests present at the Banquet made pledges for the Melkonian Alumni Endowment Fund.

*20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CALIFORNIA MELKONIAN ALUMNI.

The year 1999 coincided with the 20th anniversary of the California Melkonian Alumni. A special Banquet was organized to celebrate the occasion, in May, 1999, at the Anoush Restaurent in Glendale. The guest of honor was Mrs. Sossi Bedikian, the former principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, specially invited from Cyprus on that occasion. The event was presided by Mr. Vartan Nazirian, a 1976 graduate of Melkonian, who pledged a sum of $10,000.00 for the Endowment Fund, in memory of his late teacher, Mr. Varoujan Bedikian. All those who had served as chairmen of the Executive Committee since 1979, were honored and awarded with special plaques.

*CELEBRATIONS TO MARK THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MELKONIAN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTE.

Celebrations to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute were organized by the Executive Committee of the California Melkonian Alumni, under the chairmanship of Hagop Hairabedian, ( a 1989 graduate of Melkonian ). The Celebrations were planned to extend over a period of three days:

Thursday, July 12, to Saturday, July 14, 2001.

Thursday, July 12, 2001.

Exhibition of Paintings of the renowned Cypriot Armenian artist, Vartan Tashdjian, at the AGBU Alex Manoogian Center, in Pasadena. The event was honored by the presence of His Excellency, Mr. Andreas Kiprianedes, the Consul General of the Republic of Cyprus in Los Angeles, who presented Vartan Tashdjian, the artist.

Friday, July 13, 2001.

A special program to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Melkonian Educational Institute, at the AGBU Alex Manoogian Center in Pasadena. The M.C. was Mr. Asbes Pogharian ( a 1980 graduate of Melkonian ), the editor of the Newsletter of the Melkonian Alumni International. The keynote speaker was Mr. Vartan Tashdjian, specially invited from Cyprus on this occasion. Mr. Tashdjian , a 1959 graduate of Melkonian, has served the Melkonian Institute as a Math teacher, 1966-1975, and then served the Nareg Armenian Elementary Schools of Cyprus as principal, until his retirement in 2001. One of the highlights of the program was the performance of the world famous Armenian violinist, Mr. Haroutune Bedelian, accompanied by his wife, the famous pianist Mrs. Lorna Griffith-Bedelian. The program came to its conclusion by the performance of the Sipan Choir, conducted by Mr. Henrik Anassian.

Saturday, July 14, 2001.

75th Anniversary Gala Banquet, at the Glendale Hilton. The Banquet Chairman and the Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Movses Meymarian ( a 1958 graduate of Melkonian ). Also present were Melkoniantsis from the East Coast and midwestern states of the United States, from Cyprus, and from other countries. A Candle lighting ceremony took place performed by ten dedicated Melkoniantsis who donated $1000.00 each to the Endowment Fund.

Period of September 2001 - December 2002:

California Melkonian Alumni elected MR. JIRAIR MAGARIAN, as chairman, a 1955 Graduate of Melkonian. The Executive Committee were Haig Karamanian, vice-chairman, John Maronian, continuing as treasurer, Ninelli Khanian, continuing as secretary, and a group of dedicated members, including former chairmen and others who have served on the Committee for many years. They are: Zohrab Shammasian, Zaven Berberian, Sarkis Shahinian, Movses Meymarian, Dr. Artin Kokshanian, Hagop Hairabedian, Raffi Ghorghorian, Levon Hasserdjian, Hrip Chaderjian, Silva Agopian, Kevork Agopian, Bedros Gingeozian, Dr. Allen Gharibian, Haig Kahramanian, and others who come to the meetings, and render their services on special occasions.

Saturday, December 22, 2001.

The Committee organized a Special Banquet at Glendale, Hilton, to honor MS. ANI LACHINIAN, the current principal of the Melkonian Educational Institute, as an appreciation to her dedication, vision, and dynamic efforts to lead the Melkonian to the challenges of the 21st century. The Chairman of the day was Dr. Daniel Abdulian, who generously donated $10,000.00

The Committee had also successfully raised an amount close to $25,000.00 for audio-visual equipment for the classrooms within Melkonian Educational Institute. All funds were transferred to MEI Administration through AGBU, New York.

Saturday, July 20, 2002.

The traditional Annual Dinner-Dance party at Elegant Banquet Hall in North Hollywood, helped bring Melkoniantsis together and keep the memory of Melkonian alive.

Picnics:

Before back to school season, our picnics mark the end of an era, and a new period starts with the election of a new chairman.

January 1, 2003.

The current chairman of the AGBU - California Melkonian Alumni, Mr. Garo Kassabian, a 1954 Graduate of Melkonian, assumes the duties of chairmanship.

September 1, 2004.

The current chairman of the AGBU - California Melkonian Alumni, Mr. Zaven Berberian, a 1951 Graduate of Melkonian, assumes the duties of chairmanship.