BY MARINE VARDANYAN
FRESNO, Calif.—A special moment arises each year for the faculty, students, and supporters of the Armenian Studies Program. It is an occasion that serves as a reunion, a celebration, and a reflection on the successes of the Program. The 26th Annual Armenian Studies Program Banquet took place on Sunday, March 2, at the Fort Washington Golf & Country Club in Fresno.
The Armenian Studies Program has much to take pride in. It has succeeded in not only offering students a Minor in Armenian Studies, but has an array of achievements that includes the establishment of the only university-published Armenian student newspaper in the United States. “Hye Sharzhoom is a unique publication that represents our Program and the students, to the campus and to the community,” said Professor Der Mugrdechian. Hye Sharzhoom’s 35th Anniversary was a focal part of the evening’s celebration.
With previous editors and staff members in attendance, the audience enjoyed listening to their recollections, and viewing “Hye Sharzhoom, a Retrospective,” a power point presentation of the newspaper’s cover pages throughout the years.
Editor Vahe Messerlian (1984-1985) stated that Hye Sharzhoom had “done an outstanding job of showcasing the successes of the Armenian Studies Program and the Armenian Students Organization, keeping up with current events, and presenting the richness of our culture and heritage.” Former editors Arakel Arisian (1997-1998) and Tamar Karkazian (2010-2013) also recounted the high points of their tenure as Hye Sharzhoom editors.
The Armenian Studies Program recognized the contribution of nine Hye Sharzhoom editors who were present at the Banquet, presenting them each with a plaque and a book, published by the Armenian Series of The Press at Fresno State.
The Armenian Studies Program was honored to have Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro and First Lady Mary Castro in attendance. Dr. Castro is a first generation college student and a Valley native, and his position as the head of the university “gives a fresh look upon what a university is,” said Dr. Sergio La Porta in his introduction. “It’s not an institution…it’s an organic, dynamic place where people come alive in ways they never thought.”
Although he is in only his first year as Fresno State President, Dr. Castro is already familiar with and impressed by the Armenian Studies Program and its contribution to Fresno State and the community at large. “I sense how important the Armenian Studies Program is for the campus, for the community, and for the nation. I would like to compliment everyone who has helped to build this incredible Program.”
President Castro also voiced his support for the Armenian Studies Program and the community for the initiative to construct an Armenian Genocide Memorial on campus, which would make Fresno State the first university to have such a memorial.
“Where else should that be but here at Fresno State,” stated Dr. Castro. The audience was filled with excitement and anticipation as the President outlined his ideas and his vision of the bright future that awaits Fresno State. “In short, I want to work with all of you to make Fresno State the very best university of its kind that it can be here in the nation,” said President Castro.
The Armenian Studies Program also welcomed Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, who addressed the audience.
“The Armenian Studies Program does so much with two faculty members, Barlow Der Mugrdechian and Sergio La Porta, who are amazing, and do the work of ten faculty. Many of you in the audience are the product of our Program. We could not have accomplished what we have with the Program without you. Through your presence and your support, together we have the best undergraduate Armenian Studies Program in the United States…I also would like to congratulate the students who make all of us so proud with their achievements.”
The Banquet continued with recognition of graduating seniors, students with minors, and students who were recipients of Armenian Studies scholarships. Graduating senior Andrew Esguerra spoke of his outstanding memories while a student at Fresno State. Special recognition was also given to the executive officers of the Armenian Students Organization. Each student felt a sense of pride and achievement as they were recognized and received certificates of recognition from the Armenian Studies Program.
The evening ended with those in attendance showing their appreciation for the Armenian Studies Program and all that it has achieved. Guests left the Banquet with a gift of books from the Armenian Series of The Press at Fresno State, along with photos of their fun time in the photo booth during the reception.
With more than ten Armenian Studies Programs and endowed chairs in the United States, Fresno State’s Armenian Studies Program is the top undergraduate Program in the country.
“It is only through the support of the community, and those of you in attendance this evening, that this success is possible,” said Professor Der Mugrdechian.