SHERMAN OAKS–The Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School celebrated its "20 Years of Service to God–Community and Nation" with an elegant banquet organized by the Board of Directors and the Women’s Auxiliary. Attended by over 300 supporters and constituting the seventh jubilee events this year–the banquet was held at the Ararat Home Deukmejian Grand Ballroom in Mission Hills–California–on Saturday March 9.
Banquet co-chair Elizabeth Agbabian welcomed–congratulated and thanked the attendees. She was followed by Elise Tashjian and Esther Assilian with a performance of the US and Armenian national anthems. Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian–moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA)–gave the invocation.
Zaven Khanjian–chairman of the Board of Directors–in his introductory remarks underscored the importance of this milestone achieved through the determined efforts of many individuals and organization who deserved due praise and appreciation as exhorted by the Bible. He also stressed the fact that the 20th anniversary celebrations should be an occasion for the school to undergo self-criticism–reevaluation and the establishment of a renewed vision. The audience then learned of a most auspicious development–the expansion of the campus by 5,100 square feet of land that was donated by Mr. Thomas Von Der Ahe of the VDA Property Company. The donor was recognized accordingly with a token of appreciation.
Khanjian then proceeded to introduce the master of ceremonies–Hrant Agbabian–himself a founded and a longtime supporter of the school. After making a few humorous remarks about the cosmopolitan nature of Armenia’s–Agbabian acknowledged the presence of guests and dignitaries from the Armenian Missionary Association of America–the AEUNA–and the Armenian community at large who were in attendance.
Khanjian once again took the podium for special acknowledgmen’s. The honorees included founding members of the school–identified throughout the evening by blue ribbons of recognition–who received copes of the book–"Armenia: The Story of a Place in Essays and Images," as a token of appreciation. They likewise included two founders of the school–Rev. Dr. Vartkes Kassouni and Alice Jernazian Haigh (founding chair)–who were instrumental in the establishment of the school. As such–they were awarded special plaques of appreciation and gratitude.
Past and present Board members and involved individuals Harold DeMirjian–Koko Balian–Herair Mouradian–Hratch Sarkis–Georgie Phillips Sr.–George Phillips Jr.–Dr. Misak Abdulian–Dr. Nazareth Darakjian–Zaven Hanessian–Vahe Ashkarian–Sebu Tashjian–Hagop Loussararian–and Lucina Agbabian Hubbard were also recognized for their dedicated service to Merdinian School over the years. Similarly–past and present principals–as well as a number of teachers and staff members with many years of distinguished service–were accorded unique gifts.
A touching 20th anniversary cake ceremony followed suit–whereby the audience sang "Happy Birthday" and blew the candles–thus renewing their commitmen’s of support to Merdinian School. In the same vein–the school choir–directed by Victoria Abrahamian Elyasi–entertained the appreciative guests with a delightful rendition of English and Armenian songs.
At this time–alumnus Heghine Aslanian–now a graduate student at UCLA–spoke highly of the sound academic and moral education she and countless other youngsters had received at Merdinian–carrying them through higher education. Agbabian then invited Aram Saroyan–son of William Saroyan and an author in his own right–to deliver the keynote address. Saroyan recounted some of his experiences as a young student and as a young father through a chain of thoughts. Moreover–he spoke about his relationship with his father in their last encounter. He concluded by thanking the organizers for inviting him and giving him the opportunity to address an Armenian audience.
In his brief address–principal Dr. Vahram Shemmassian likened Merdinian to an addictive passion fruit whose tree required grafting in search of more succulent variations to be able to embrace the future with fresher aroma and nectar.
Agbabian then presented Zaven Khanjian with a gift of appreciation from the Board of Directors and the Women’s Auxiliary for his 20 years for dedicated service to Merdinian school in various capacities.
The banquet–a definite success–concluded with the benediction of Rev. Jirair Soghomian–the executive director of the AMAA–who wished Merdinian many more years of successful progress.
As a bonus–the banquet guests got to view a unique photo exhibit depicting everyday life at Merdinian school since its inception in 1982. Also–the guests took home an attractive anniversary booklet that included a chronology of Merdinian’s evolution–messages–pictures–and letters of congratulation. All in tribute to a success story.
This 20th anniversary function was also successful in terms of the donation and pledges–made directly to the school or to its numerous endowment funds–amounting to more than $150,000.