Armenian Genocide Survivor Dedicated his Life to Armenian Genocide Awareness, Affirmation and Education
WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) on Monday expressed its deepest condolences on the passing of award-winning filmmaker, educator and pioneer in Armenian Genocide historiography, Dr. J. Michael Hagopian. The 97-year-old Armenian Genocide survivor, who had dedicated his life to documenting the horrors of the Armenian Genocide through film, passed away on December 10th in Thousand Oaks, California.
“Dr. Hagopian was a vanguard of the Armenian Cause – a true inspiration to all touched by his art, his genius and his commitment,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “Through his decades of documentary work, the voices of Genocide survivors resounded from generation to generation—setting the groundwork for our community’s ongoing political and legal efforts to secure justice for this crime against humanity.”
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian remembered the contributions Dr. Hagopian in educating generations about the Armenian Genocide in particular and the devastating effects of intolerance in society in statements issuedon Dec. 13.
Rep. Schiff noted, “I was blessed with the opportunity to work closely with J. Michael Hagopian, bringing his films to Capitol Hill and on a variety issues of importance to the local Armenian community, and I was terribly saddened to learn that he passed away late last week. Dr. Hagopian’s documentary films on the Armenian Genocide are a pathbreaking work that will help inform generations to come of the facts of the first genocide of the last century. He will be deeply missed. As they say in Armenian, may God enlighten his soul and bring comfort to his loved ones.”
Councilman Krekorian explained, “Through his life and career, Dr. J Michael Hagopian is proof that a single person can change humankind’s understanding of itself. He is proof that we can rise above intolerance and ensure future generations are armed with the information needed to combat bigotry in all forms.”
Born in Kharpert in 1913, Hagopian survived the Armenian Genocide and emigrated with his family to the United States, eventually settling in Fresno, CA in 1927. He would go on to receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Government and International Relations from Harvard University. During his years as an educator at several universities, realizing the need for better educational films for his classes, Hagopian embarked on his second career in film – completing two years of graduate work in cinema at the University of Southern California.
Over a 40 year period, Dr. Hagopian made over 70 educational and documentary films which garnered over 160 national and international awards, including two Emmy nominations. His documentary film archive includes nearly 400 interviews of survivors and witnesses to the Armenian Genocide, traveling around the world to record their accounts in 10 languages. He established the Armenian Film Foundation in 1979 as a non-profit, educational, and cultural organization dedicated to the documentation in motion pictures of Armenian heritage and life.
Hagopian was recipient of the ANCA Western Region Man of the Year Award in 1984 and 2000. Former ANCA Western Region executive director Alex Sardar explained, in 2000, that Dr. Hagopian was chosen “not only because his work will stand the test of time and will continue to educate generations to come on the history of the Armenian Genocide–but also because Dr. Hagopian has dedicated his life to moving forward the Armenian Cause–with intense fervor and commitment–at the same time paying tribute to the memory of the victims and the struggle for recognition of the survivors.”
Dr. Hagopian’s complete history of achievements can be viewed on the Armenian Film Foundation website at: http://armenianfilm.org/news/Hagopian_obituary_final.pdf
Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, December 15, at 2 p.m., at Samuelson Chapel on the campus of California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks. Following the service, the burial will be at Valley Oaks Memorial Park, 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village, CA 91362.