PASADENA — On January 17, 2016, Melkoniantzis of all generations and other guests gathered at Saint Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena to hold a soorp badarak for the benefactors of their beloved school, the Melkonian Educational Institute, founded in Cyprus 90 years ago. The memorial was followed by a luncheon at the adjacent Geragos Hall where the legacy of the Melkonian brothers was celebrated with humility and gratitude. Over 250 alumni and guests attended the event jointly organized by the AGBU Melkonian Alumni and Melkonian Alumni and Friends, putting an end to a decade of distrust between the two Los Angeles based alumni bodies, ushering in a spirit of cooperation and respect.
The celebration began with the singing of the Melkonian anthem, sang with the same passion by its former students, the same way they had sang it many years earlier. After the opening remarks by masters of ceremonies Levon Hassrejian, a string quartet played works by Aram Khachatourian. The musical selections were followed by Hasserjian reciting a poem written about Melkonian by one of its alums and teachers, Varoujan Bedikian. The main speech was delivered by the head of the Armenian Studies Department of the AGBU Marie Manoogian School in Canoga Park, Hratch Sepetjian. In his message, the former Melkonian student reflected upon the impact of the benefactors in the revitalization of the Armenian nation after the devastation of the Genocide. He urged his fellow Melkoniantzis to channel their passion and love for their alma mater to worthy causes throughout Armenia and the Diaspora.
Although they themselves never graduated elementary school, Krikor and Garabed Melkonian considered education and the preservation of the Armenian culture of utmost importance in revitalizing their broken nation. They allocated their entire wealth built through tobacco commerce to benefit these endeavors. With a mission to reverse the harm inflicted upon their nation by the Ottoman Turks, they established the Melkonian kindergarten in Alexandria, Egypt and the Melkonian Orphanage in Cyprus (later to become the Melkonian Educational Institute.) They also gave financial assistance to numerous Armenian establishments, including the Armenian Patriarchates of Istanbul and Jerusalem, the Soorp Pergich Hospital in Istanbul, the University of Yerevan, the Academy of Sciences of Armenia, as well as numerous organizations and publications throughout the Diaspora and Armenia.
It is the rich legacy of these childless brothers that was being celebrated in Pasadena, by no others than their own grateful ‘children,’ the alumni. During its 80-year of existence, over 4,000 alumni have had the honor to call themselves a Melkoniantzi, a badge of honor that cannot be explained, but can only be lived. Although the Melkonian Educational Institute sadly closed its doors back in 2005, its legacy continues.
In commemoration of the Melkonian brothers’ legacy, a series of festivities are planned in Cyprus this summer. Melkoniantzis scattered throughout the world are expected to converge on the island during eight exciting nights starting July 14. The main emphasis will be celebrating the rich legacy left behind by the Melkonian brothers. The highlight will be when the ‘children’ will bow their heads at the mausoleum on the school grounds where the two brothers are buried and honor them in gratitude. Non-Melkoniantzis are also expected to attend, as the charity of the brothers goes way beyond the school, having touched the lives of the vast majority of Armenians following the difficult years after the Genocide.
Armenians everywhere, please join the ‘children’ in their pilgrimage to Cyprus!