Vartkess Balian Community Leader, Humanitarian and Art Connoisseur Dies in Washington

WASHINGTON — Vartkess Balian, one of the prominent Armenian movers and shakers at the nation’s capital, succumbed to a long illness and died on Monday, August 4.

Balian has played leading roles in many Armenian and American organizations. For many years, he served as the president of the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada (TCA).

The funeral is scheduled to be held over the weekend of August 15-16, at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Washington, DC. The wake will take place on Friday, August 15 6-9 p.m. and the funeral service Saturday, August 16, at 9:30 a.m.

The TCA Board has issued the following communiqué on the occasion of his death:

The Fall of a Generous Leader

All chapters and members of the TCA in the US and Canada (TCA) mourn the loss of the generous and visionary leader Vartkess Balian, who served our organization as the most dynamic president from 1997-2003, during which period he initiated and completed many charitable, educational and cultural projects, always assuming the lions share of contributions to those projects.

Balian was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon into a family that cherished Armenian traditions. He graduated from American University of Beirut (AUB) as an architect engineer. During his student years, he distinguished himself as a star athlete and a youth leader.

His community services began in the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Youth organization, where he demonstrated his leadership skills not only in sports, but also in visual and performing arts.

Balian married Rita Simonian and they were blessed with two children, Sevag and Raffi. Over the years, his wife proved to be a distinguished partner sharing her husband’s vision and beneficence.

The major field of their community activities concentrated on the AGBU. Upon moving to the US, they settle in the Greater Washington area, where their residence soon became the unofficial embassy of Armenia, hosting dignitaries, statesmen, artists and religious leaders.

Vartkess Balian served as the president of AGBU of America and later he was elected as a member of its Central Board of Directors, where he became one of the closest associates of the legendary benefactor and president, Alex Manoogian.

During his term of service, many innovative projects were initiated and others revived, to expand the worldwide operations of the organization. He was fortunate to have his wife always working in tandem.

The TCA is particularly grateful to the Balians. Long before Vartkess Balian assumed the presidency of the organization — a post he fulfilled with distinction — he had already contributed generously to its many projects, chief among them being the $100,000 donation to establish the TCA Vartkess and Rita Balian press award, which has bestowed prizes to many journalists, writing in Armenian and non-Armenian languages. The Balians were also instrumental in initiating the TCA’s Sponsor a Teacher Program, which has contributed more than $300,000 over the years to staff salaries in four TCA-sponsored schools in Armenia. The school in Karpi has enjoyed the special attention of the Balians, who completed many renovation projects in that school and underwrote the entire cost of a new kindergarten building.

Most recently, the Balians made a contribution to the TCA Arshag Dickranian School in California.

Many art books and literary books published by TCA have been sponsored by the Balians.

Armenia will remember Vartkess Balian for many major projects, beginning with the Wellness center, which became a state-of-the-art medical facility, a standout in the entire Caucasus region. His generosity extended also to the American University of Armenia, Yerevan State University and other institutions.

As an art connoisseur, Vartkess Balian had acquired a collection of some of the best works by Armenian artists around the world. Dignitaries and friends alike visiting Balians’ residence have been able to take pleasure in the first-rate works of art.

The TCA mourns the loss of a trailblazing and generous leader, whose deeds and memory will remain as a guiding and inspiring light for our entire membership.

— Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada