BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
BEVERLY HILLS—For decades, the Armenian Cultural Foundation’s annual Gala Banquet has become one of the most anticipated events of our community. It was no different on Sunday, March 19, when a capacity crowd of more than 350 community leaders and benefactors gathered at the Beverly Hills Hotel to celebrate the ACF’s achievements and to honor one of their own, Hacop Baghdassarian, and his wife Hilda, whose decades long generosity in advancing Armenian education and culture both here in the United States and in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk were recognized. The evening raised $425,000 for ACF’s activities.
In introducing Baghdassarian, ACF Chairman Avedik Izmirlian said that for the organization it was an honor to count a generous individual like Baghdassarian as part of the large ACF family, adding that he is “an exemplary Armenian whose spirit of dedication continues through his children.”
A visibly moved Baghdassarian, who was accompanied on the stage by his wife, Hilda, thanked the ACF for its decades long service to the community and extoled the organization’s mission, which he said embodies the national spirit of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an entity, which he said has been a guiding force in his life since his childhood in Iran and has driven him to advance Armenian culture and education not only in Iran and the United States, but also in Armenia and Artsakh.
During his remarks, Izmirlian also recognized Sarkis and Nune Sepejian for sponsoring the costs of the event and along with committee members and other ACF Board members presented a plaque of appreciation to the couple.
“Dear Sarkis and Nune, your continued generosity and dedication is unique, for which please accept our continued gratitude,” said Izmirlian.
The evening’s Master of Ceremonies Gevik Baghdassarian, praised the ACF for advancing Armenian culture and education by encouraging young Armenians to become engaged in the community.
He then invited the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee Chairperson Daron Der Khachadourian, who in expressing his gratitude to the benefactors and donors gathered at the event, highlighted the important advances the ACF has made due to the continued support and generosity of community members.
He also highlighted the challenges facing the community and the Armenian Nation. Der Khachadourian said that in addition to advancing justice for the Armenian Genocide and fighting for a more democratic and just Armenia, the continued threats to the people of Artsakh propel the organization to remain vigilant to ensure that the security of our nation is not compromised.
Here at home, Der Khachadourian said, the organization is tackling issues with a renewed vigor and innovative approaches in effort to keep the ARF young and to advance its mission for new generations of Armenians.
Der Khachadourian expressed confidence that through the continued support of those gathered at the event, the organization will be able to achieve new heights in the advancement of the national aspirations of the Armenian Nation.
Before presenting the honors to Baghdassarian, the ACF’s chairman Izmirlian demonstrated the power of giving by thanking last year’s ACF honorees Mr. and Mrs. Hacob and Mina Shirvanian, through whose contribution a state of the art youth center was inaugurated in Gyumri, Armenia last June. Similarly, Izmirlian pointed to past honorees Garo and Alice Gureghian, whose bequest to the ACF enabled the Fresno community to reopen its Armenian center earlier this month.
Izmirlian also thanked the ACF Gala Banquet committee members, whose dedication and belief in the mission of organization drove the collective to organize a successful event.
In her remarks, ACF Gala Banquet committee chairwoman Elizabeth Boyadjian thanked the attendees and stressed the important projects and programs that have enhanced our community’s life and the lives of those in Armenia and Artsakh through the ACF.
The evening program began with welcoming remarks by chairwoman of the ARF Shant Student Association Laleh Pakradouni and Chairman of the Armenian Youth Federation of Western United States Rafi Orphali.
Speaking in Armenian, Pakradouni outlined the ways in which the ACF has impacted her life and has provided opportunities to her and her contemporaries to live richer lives as Armenians. She also stressed the important role the ACF has played in empowering the young generation to advance the Armenian Cause and truly take the leadership mantle for the future of the Armenian Nation.
In his turn, Orphali reflected on his “true ACF journey,” which took him from the ANCA-WR internship program to the ranks of the AYF and enabled him to forge his commitment to the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
He said that while his age would prevent him from continuing as a member of the AYF later this year, his role in the ACF did not have an “expiration date.”
“Though my time as an AYF member has an expiration date, my role in the ACF does not. I will always continue to support the ACF. By supporting the ACF, you make an investment in our homeland, and our youth, the future leaders of our community. With your support, our programs will continue to grow and flourish. You have our word that we will not stop, and we will not become complacent until all of our organizational goals are met,” said Orphali.
After the singing of the US and Armenian National Anthems by Toukhman Khatchadourian, Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian offered the invocation of the evening and prayed for the continued progress and prosperity of the ACF.
The evening’s program also included musical entertainment by Heibert Sarian, who was accompanied on oud by Antranig Kzirian, as well as vocal performance by Arminka and Joseph Krikorian. Musical selection throughout the evening were performed by ISM Productions Chamber Orchestra.