BEIRUT–The 85th anniversary celebration of the Armenian Evangelical College, the first Armenian high school of the post-genocide Armenian diaspora, was held on Sunday, October 19, 2008 at the UNESCO Hall under the auspices of the Armenian Evangelical Union of the Middle East, with over 650 guests in attendance.
After the singing of the Armenian and the Lebanese National Anthems, the ceremony began with an invocation offered by Rev. Hagop Sarkissian pastor of the Armenian Evangelical First Church.
Dr. Arda Ekmekji, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Haigazian University welcomed the public and subsequently introduced the guest speakers of the evening. Mrs. Jeanette Kassouny – a former student and teacher of AEC ‘s was the keynote speaker for the event, brought specifically for the occasion from Los Angeles. Mrs. Kassouny addressed the public in Armenian by offering a brief overview of the school and its Armenian Evangelical mission from inception to the present.
Furthermore, Kassouny highlighted the factors, which lead to the foundation of the Armenian Evangelical College 85 years ago.
“85 years later, as we look back, we find many Alumni, in Lebanon and all over the world, who are proud keepers of the school’s mission, education, and who excel in various professions with gratitude for their development and education at AEC,” Kassouny said.
Kassouny quoted Rev. Manasseh Shnorhokian, a respected pastor, an educator, and author of 2 Armenian Evangelical publications: “AEC has been a leader in our educational life; it has been a lighthouse with its mission in our education system.” She concluded by stating simply, “Let the light of AEC continue to shine.”
Dr. Abbas Kassem, former Arabic literature and history teacher of AEC, also took the podium to deliver a speech in Arabic. He emphasized the quality of education and values espoused by AEC in a multiethnic society – values unique to the AEC, particularly during the intense Lebanese Civil War.
The ceremony was attended by Dr. Paul Haidostian, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East, and President of Haigazian University, who also represented the AEUNA president Rev. Mgrditch Karageuzian, along with prominent Armenian dignitaries, Lebanese officials, parents and friends.
The speeches were followed by a musical program, consisting of a selection of operatic arias performed by mezzo-soprano Lena Kurkjian, followed by a musical selection performed by pianist Garo Avessian, cellist Shushan Artinian and pianist Ani Balabanian, and a selection of songs by AEC choir conducted by Nectar Plazian and accompanied by Maria Palazian.
The musical interlude was followed by a presentation prepared by Shushan Artinian, highlighting the school’s history, heritage and mission, as well as cultural, athletic and academic achievents throughout the years.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of a special plaque to Principal Dr. Zaven Messerlian by the Board of Directors in appreciation of his 41 years of dedication to the school, and considerable effort in connection with the jubilee celebration. He in turn thanked the Board for the honor, and noted that all achievemen’s past and present were done with faith, and hoped the school would look to the future with the same faith.
Finally, published on this occasion was an album-memorial book containing a brief history of the school, with the names and photos of all the graduating classes since 1927 to the present.
The 85th-anniversary celebration ended with a reception and a cake-cutting ceremony at the Intercontinental Phoenicia, during which, philanthropist Raffi Manoukian, whose generous contribution helped to make the event possible, and the guest speakers and performers of the evening were presented with 85th-anniversary appreciation awards.