The Society for Armenian Studies is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a multi-thematic conference which is at the same time underlined by its overriding theme “Armenian Studies at a Threshold.”
This conference that brings together over 60 scholars from the United States and abroad will offer twelve sessions starting in the afternoon of March 26, 2009 with three sessions followed by five sessions on Friday and four on Saturday.
The celebratory events will be concluded by a banquet at Taglyan Center in Hollywood on the evening of Saturday.
This piece being the second on the Society for Armenian Studies and its history, it would be appropriate to name the various chairs and programs that followed the establishment of the first two chairs in 1969. As much as it was possible to verify at this time, there are some 15 Armenian studies chairs and programs active in the United States.
Harvard Chair is known as the Mashtots Chair in Armenian Studies. Its first holder was Prof. Robert W. Thomson (1969-1993) and its present holder is Prof. James Russel. The Grigor Narekatsi Chair of Armenian Studies at UCLA had Prof. Avedis K. Sanjian as its first holder (1969-1992, and as Emeritus professor 1993-95). After Professor Sanjian’s death in 1995, the program was run by Dr. Marc Nichanian for one year (1995/96) and for four years by Prof. S. Peter Cowe who was appointed holder of the Chair in 2000.
The Columbia University Chair was established in 1979 (although there was a program before then) and until 1991 it was known as the Centennal Chair in Armenian Studies and in 1991/2 was renamed the Gevork Avedissian Chair in Armenian Studies. Its first holder was Prof. Nina Garsoian (1979-1993) who was also elected the first President of the Society for Armenian Studies in 1975. Since Dr. Garsoian’s retirement no new holder of the Chair has been chosen but the program has been run successively by Dr. Cowe (1993/4-1996, Dr. Marc Nichanian (1996-2008) and currently by Ms. Nanor Kenderian.
In 1980, the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History was established at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Its first holder was Dr. Ronald Suny (1981-1995), after two years followed by Stephanie Platz (1997-2000). After a vacancy of several years, the Chair was filled by Dr. Gerard Libaridian.
The Armenian Educational Foundation Chair of Modern Armenian History at UCLA was established in 1986 and its only holder has been to this day Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian. Like Dr. Garsoi??an, Dr. Hovannisian is a founding member of SAS and its seven-time President. He is serving his seventh term this year.
As with UCLA, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor received a second chair in Armenian studies. This was the Marie Manoogian Chair in Armenian Language and Literature (1987). Its only holder has been Prof. Kevork Bardakjian.
There will be more about the Armenian studies chairs in my next communiqu?. It should be noted, that with the exception of the California State University at Northridge which has been university-supported, all these chairs and programs have been established by the Armenian community.
One of the sessions at the conference in March will look into the history and contributions of all these chairs and programs in Armenian studies, evaluate them and try to project their potential significance in the future of Armenian studies within the contexts of the universities within which they reside and the value they represent for the future of the Armenian Diaspora. The participants of this round table discussion will be Drs. Taner Akcam, Anny Bakalian, Kevork Bardakjian, Peter Cowe, Richard Hrair Dekmejian, Barlow Der MMugrdechian, Richard Hovannisian, Jirair Libaridian, Ara Sanjian and Vahram Shemmassian.