BY DIRAN AVAGYAN
The Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund marked the 10th Anniversary of its inception on September 10 with a glamorous gala at the prestigious Jonathan Club. This extraordinary event saw nearly 200 benefactors, supporters, and friends in attendance, creating an unprecedented evening filled with warmth and generosity. The gala featured a heartwarming reception, an exquisite dinner, live music, and a comprehensive program.
Guests were welcomed into the Florentine Hall, adorned with sand candles, creating a charming atmosphere. Attendees mingled while enjoying hand-crafted drinks, immersed in the enchanting melodies of classical music. Elegance permeated the air, and the joyous hearts of the donors and friends of the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund amplified the positive ambiance. The lively hum of conversations and laughter electrified the atmosphere, as guests savored gourmet finger foods.
The event drew a prestigious guest list, featuring reverend clergy, Diocesan Council Chairman Mr. Vartan Nazerian and his beloved wife Berta Nazerian, distinguished community and organizational leaders, major benefactors, as well as principals and board members from St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School – a steadfast supporter over the past decade, Armenian Sisters Academy, American University of America, C&E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School, and AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, whose board members, donors, alumni, and present parents, constitute our largest donor base. Notably, the event was graced by the presence of Emmy award-winning anchor Araksya Karapetyan, adding a touch of celebrity glamour.
Around 7 p.m., attendees were ushered into the Main Dining Room, where a 12-square-foot stage hosted the world-class musicians of the StArt Ensemble. They delighted the audience with Armenian, European, and Latin American pieces, showcasing their talents on violin, vibraphone, percussions, piano, and a 6-string bass guitar. Their modern renditions brought a unique twist to familiar melodies, adding a contemporary flair to the formal event.
Diran Avagyan, the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund, delivered the opening remarks, extending a warm welcome to all present. He stated, “As we celebrate the achievements of our scholarship fund, we also celebrate each and every one of you for your steadfast support and trust. This exquisite banquet serves as our heartfelt expression of gratitude for your generosity and firm belief in this noble cause.”
Following the opening remarks, Rev. Fr. Khajag Shahbazyan, the Parish Priest of St. Leon Armenian Cathedral, offered an invocation, setting a spiritual tone for the evening.
A sumptuous 3-course dinner was then served in an elegant style befitting the prestigious venue. Wine flowed, laughter filled the air, and cherished memories were created during this hour as everyone embraced the spirit of the occasion.
Eileen Keusseyan, the Chairlady of the Board of Directors, took the stage next to address the attendees. Her voice resonated with excitement and joy as she delivered a brief report on the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund’s activities and its significant impact on Armenian schools and young scholars within the community. The astounding revelation was that the fund had distributed over $500,000 to Armenian educational institutions over the past ten years, promoting Armenian education, culture, and identity both locally and in Armenia. This support extended to both day-schools and Saturday schools. It’s worth noting that Saturday schools hold a special place as they cater to students who, despite attending non-Armenian day schools during the week, willingly dedicate their Saturdays to immerse themselves in the study of our language, history, religion, and culture, all in the noble pursuit of preserving their Armenian identity.
During the event, Dr. Ellie Andreassian received acknowledgment for her remarkable 12-year leadership of the Western Diocesan Saturday schools. Looking ahead, there are plans to consolidate the Saturday schools of both the Western and Eastern Dioceses, bringing the total to 51 schools under the same umbrella, with Dr. Andreassian continuing her commendable leadership.
Keusseyan further underscored the importance and profound significance of the endowment funds established in memory or in honor of individuals. These endowments serve as enduring legacies, ensuring that the names of these individuals will forever be linked with the noble cause of supporting students in financial need. She emphasized that these invaluable endowment funds would be administered under the Scholarship Fund, with the interest generated directly contributing to providing crucial financial aid to our recipient schools.
The evening’s highlight was the announcement of the Dr. Harry Demirgian Memorial Scholarship Fund, a substantial endowment of over $850,000 dedicated to supporting university students, as per the benefactor’s wishes. Dr. Harry Demirgian, whose deep connection to his Armenian heritage led to significant contributions to his community, will be remembered for his enduring impact on Armenian education and culture.
Chairlady Keusseyan also acknowledged another endowment established in celebration of the 90th birthday of Rev. Archpriest Fr. Zaven Arzoumanian, PhD, a renowned figure known for his unwavering dedication to the Armenian Church, scholarly pursuits, and contributions to the Armenian diaspora. His legacy exemplifies devotion to faith, culture, and community.
Keusseyan concluded her remarks by saying, “We are only 10 years young. Yet, in our short lifetime, we have proven to be impactful, leaving a lasting mark on young scholars who yearn for Armenian quality education. Today, on this auspicious occasion, we solemnly pledge to continue our mission by empowering our Armenian schools and supporting needy students. We take your trust seriously and appreciate your partnership in this noble cause.”
Following a resounding round of applause, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese, took the stage to offer his words of gratitude and to bestow upon the attendees his fatherly benediction. The Archbishop began his speech with a notable announcement—the establishment of the Torkom Postajian Memorial Scholarship Fund, honoring an individual who played a pivotal role in preserving Armenian culture and language among the youth.
Archbishop Derderian’s speech was emotionally charged and thought-provoking. He acknowledged the challenges faced by Armenia and its resilience in the face of regional instability and complex geopolitics. He emphasized the importance of quality education as the cornerstone of Armenia’s future, stating, “Education is the single asset that can withstand any economic or political upheaval. It is the beacon of hope that can guide us through the storm. Highly educated, professional, innovative, and competitive young minds will shape the future of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora.”
Archbishop Derderian concluded his address with a profound quote from Lord Chesterfield: “Knowledge is a comfortable and necessary retreat and shelter for us in an advanced age; and if we do not plant it while young, it will give us no shade when we grow old.”
The evening reached its pinnacle when Chairlady Keusseyan announced the remarkable achievement of raising close to $1,000,000 in endowments and donations. With this celebratory note, the guests departed, promising to reconvene next year to celebrate another milestone in the history of the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund.
Established in 2013, the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund has distributed nearly $500,000 to the following institutions:
- Arshag Dickranian Armenian School, Los Angeles (2014-2015);
- AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, Canoga Park (2014-Present);
- AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manookian High School, Pasadena (2014-2019);
- Armenian Sisters Academy, La Crescenta (2017-Present);
- C&E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School, Sherman Oaks (2017-Present);
- St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School, Pasadena (2014-Present);
- Sahag-Mesrob Armenian Christian School, Altadena (2017);
- Saturday Schools of the Western Diocese, Burbank (2014-Present);
- American University of Armenia, Yerevan (2020-Present);
- FLAG Dual Immersion Program, GUSD, Glendale (2019, 2023);
- Moshatagh School, Kashatagh Region, Artsakh (2019).
The following endowment funds, with a cumulative total exceeding $1,000,000, have been established under the umbrella of the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund:
- Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund Endowment;
- Alice Nazerian Endowment Fund;
- Manoug Chakrian Endowment Fund;
- Hovagim Sahakyan Memorial Scholarship Fund;
- Bedros and Susan Gourchounian Endowment Fund;
- Onnig and Karmen Garavaryan Endowment Fund;
- Harutun Kavoukjian Memorial Scholarship Fund;
- Dr. Harry Demirgian Memorial Scholarship Fund;
- Hagop Parseghian Endowment Fund;
- Mari Tanielian Bilenler Memorial Scholarship Fund;
- Rev. Archpriest Fr. Zaven Arzoumanian Scholarship Fund;
- Koharik Bedrossian Endowment Fund;
- Seth and Ruby Abajian Memorial Scholarship Fund;
- Torkom Postajian Memorial Scholarship Fund.