FRESNO–Dr. Dickran Kouymjian–holder of the Haig & Isabel Berberian Endowed Chair of Armenian Studies at California State University–Fresno–was honored as "Man of the Year" by the Central California Chapter of the Armenian National Committee at its annual banquet on Sunday–March 5. Dr. Kouymjian was recognized for his work as Director of the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State and his continuing research and study of the religion–art–language and history of the Armenian people.
The nearly three hundred guests were welcomed by Master of Ceremonies–Berj Apkarian who gave a brief overview of the activities of the local ANC. Father Vahan Gosdanian–pastor of Holy Trinity Church–offered the blessings and Hygo Ohanessian–sang the Star Spangled Banner and Mer Hairenik. Meher Chekerdemian–chairman of the ARF Tehlirian Gomideh also welcome the guests and commented briefly about the parallels of the Armenian Studies program goals of the ANC–and commended Dr. Kouymjian for his work in that arena.
Fresno State Associated Students President and a product of the Armenian Studies Program–Arakel Arisian–spoke of the mutual respect that exists between Dr. Kouymjian and his students. He added that the students say "He is a brilliant man–he knows everything." Appropriately–Arisian made apart of his remarks in Armenian.
The afternoon’s program also included a local high school string quartet that performed a selections by Komitas.
Steve Samuelian–assistant to Congressman George Radanovich introduced a number of local public officials–including Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson–who presented Dr. Kouymjian with a Resolution declaring Sunday–March 5 as "Dickran Kouymjian Day" in Fresno. Also in attendance was a six member visiting team of educators from the Yerevan State University in Armenia. The Rector/President of the University Dr. Radick Martirossian presented Dr. Kouymjian with a gold medal from the University and remarked about his recognition as one of the leading academicians and scholars in the research and study of Armenian art–religion–language and history. Dr. Kouymjian also received a resolution of commendation from State Assemblywoman Sarah Reyes. Richard Darmanian–chairman of the local ANC–presented the traditional ANC "Man of the Year" plaque. A large number of letters and messages of congratulations and commendations were received from colleagues–friends and relatives. Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia–wrote to offer his prayers for the continued good health of Dickran and his wife Angele so they may continue their work with renewed dedication.
A message from Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian–Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople–contained the following: "…your contribution to the field of Armenian Studies is so great–that you are not only the Man of this Year–but as a philologist-teacher-scholar–your works will for many years be a valuable resource for both Armenian and non-Armenian students…."
Archbishop Torkom Manoogian–Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote "As the generation who witnessed the Armenian Genocide passes–the Armenian nation–now more than ever–relies on the commitment of dynamic academicians like Dickran Kouymjian to leave an indelible and indisputable mark on the human consciousness of the world.
Dr. Richard Hovannisian–Armenian Educational Foundation Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA–made the following comment. "It is sometimes not recognized that scholarly–academic and outreach programs making known the past and present of the Armenian people are in themselves an important component of the Armenian Cause or Hai Tad. The battle for truth takes place not only the political arena but now in the academic arena."
Following his introduction by Dr. Harold Haak–President Emeritus of California State University–Fresno–and recently appointed Executive Director of the Maddy Institute–Dr. Kouymjian thanked the ANC for selecting him as Man of the Year. He said "I would like to believe that the award is as much for the Armenian Studies Program which I established at Fresno State 23 years ago–as it is for me. If my presence in this city has meant anything it must surely be for trying to permanently institutionalize the teaching of Armenian subjects to a broad populace from the Central Valley. In the past 23 years more than 5000 students of all ages have enrolled in our courses. I hope that those I have taught have learned more than facts about Armenian history–literature–and art–that they have taken away a method for studying such disciplines." Dr. Kouymjian pointed with pride to the student newspaper–Hye Sharzhoom–as the cornerstone to an active outreach program. "It is by far the oldest (perhaps the only) and most consistently published university student Armenian newspaper in the world."
Kouymjian continued his remarks by saying: "I am being honored today by an organization which has a mission–a clear purpose. For decades the Armenian National Committee has served as a promoter of what one might loosely call Armenian rights–both for the diasporan community in the United States and collectively for an entire nation that has suffered the catastrophe of genocide in this century. Its work on the local and national level in this country and through similar organizations in Europe has been especially directed toward resolving some of the confusion and distress caused by the Genocide and toiling to make sure that the act and its consequences are clearly understood by the government of countries where Armenia’s reside today–or which have official relations with the Armenian Republic. In honoring–once again–a scholar from this community along with congressmen and diplomats….I hope my willingness to engage in matters vital to the well being of Armenia’s–to speak out as an academic on sensitive issues pertaining to our past and present history is also being recognized."
In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities–Kouymjian is currently cataloguing and exhibit for the Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin on "Armenian Altar Churches" which will be exhibited at the Textile Museum in Lyon–France as part of the 1700th anniversary of the establishment of Christianity in Armenia. At the same time–Kouymjian is preparing an exhibit and catalogue–at the request of Catholicos Aram I–entitled "The Treasures of the Cilician Catholicosate" for the Museum of Art and History in Geneva–Switzerland.