NORTH HILLS–The Ararat Deukmejian Hall was filled with 400 friends of Merdinian School on February 4 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Initially, with no campus of its own, it has blossomed into a full-fledged, accredited institution serving the Armenian community from pre-K through 8th grade. Enthusiastic donors who believe in this mission swelled the school coffers to over $204,000! In attendance was Dr. Vahe Pierre Haig whose generous donation was in honor of Rev. Dr. Giragos H. Chopourian, former Executive Director of the AMAA, one of the leading proponents of the school. His late wife, Alice , with her dedication and expertise in education, was truly a mentor to the principal and teachers in the newly formed school. Harold DeMirjian was also thanked for his selfless, hands-on effort with Merdinian and his many years of service to the school. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, expressed his appreciation for the dedication of so many, helping bring the school to this major milestone. He brought greetings from Catholicos Aram I and invited George Phillips, Sr., Merdinian School Man of the Year to the podium and presented him with an Encyclical from the Catholicos, honoring him for his major efforts on behalf of the school. Council General of the Republic of Armenia, Armen Liloyan, also shared his thoughts of appreciation for Merdinian School. Principal Hovsep Injejikian welcomed everyone and introduced the keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian, Executive Director, Armenian Evangelical World Council who said, "Twenty five years in the life of Merdinian is indeed a great milestone, considering all the odds at its founding. It was a true venture of faith. " He said, " The Silver Anniversary is a time of accomplishmen’s for providing excellent Armenian and Christian education. Time for thanksgiving for God’s guidance and providence. Time for rededication to claim the future." Dr. Hrair Atikian, Chairman of the Board of Directors proclaimed that "As of this evening, we are officially announcing our major fund-raising campaign for a high school. It can be done–It must be done!"He shared two reasons why Merdinian School should exist. First– it is a lighthouse that casts its beacon of faith and Christ’s love which has come down to us from our forefathers. Second– Here our children learn their mother tongue, Armenian history, culture and traditions so vital in keeping our Armenian National identity. Dr. Atikian then introduced the Merdinian School Man of the Year, Mr. George Philips, Sr. He presented him with mementos of appreciation from the Board of Directors, also Certificates of Recognition from federal, and state, and city government agencies were given. Phillips has from the inception of the school, been a diligent friend, tirelessly rendering voluntary legal services and being instrumental in obtaining generous donations from numerous foundations and charitable trusts. Phillips inspired everyone with his passionate acknowledgement of the importance of Merdinian School. He explained the school was incorporated under Armenian Evangelical Schools. The original intent was to have many schools named after more than one benefactor– and it still is. Mr. Phillips reminded us that, "Even though we in the Diaspora are now helping Armenia and the Middle East, if we do not build a firm foundation of Armenia’s who succeed in American society, our help will not be perpetuated unless succeeding generations here successfully join into and excel in American society." Banquet Co-Chairs, Rita Meneshian, Rita Tilkian Hasserjian, Dr. Hrair Atikian, and the banquet committee wanted the evening to be a celebration, but also to honor and remember all those persons who have given of their talents and time so generously. All the original Board of Director members were highlighted as were the former principals. All the principals present from the local Armenian schools were also recognized. In attendance was Gabriel Injejikian who was the pioneer educator who envisioned and succeeded against great odds– the founding of the first local Armenian school, now Ferrahian High School. Dr. Paul Narguizian, the Master of Ceremonies, introduced two alumni, Sebouh Asparian, Esq.– Class of 90 and Lisa Markarian, Esq.–class of ’95. Their remembrances and gratitude for their years at Merdinian were heartwarming. Concert Pianist, Harout Senekerimian delighted the crowd. Raffi Kerbabian, accompanied by Esther Assilian led the American and Armenian anthems. Rev. Joseph Matossian, Minister to the AEUNA and Rev. Ron Tovmassian , Moderator of the AEUNA led in the invocation and benediction.