Kevork S. Hovnanian Dies

 Philanthropist Was Co-Founder of FAR


Mirror-Spectator Staff

RUMSON, N.J. — Kevork S. Hovnanian, founder and chairman of the board of one of the nation’s largest homebuilders, died on September 24, at age 86.

 Hovnanian’s story began when his family fled Iraq during a revolution, which saw his successful road building company nationalized. Arriving unharmed but penniless in the United States, Hovnanian put his experience to work. With his three brothers, he founded the company that eventually became Hovnanian Enterprises. While his brothers eventually left to start their own successful businesses, Hovnanian Enterprises went on to become a Fortune 500 Company.

His accomplishments led to an array of honors, including Harvard University’s Dively Award for Leadership in Corporate Public Initiatives because of his company’s successful inner-city community in Newark, the Rutgers University “25 top New Jersey Business leaders of the Century,” top ranking performance on Forbes Platinum list and the Fortune 500 list, the National Quality Housing Award by the National Association of Homebuilders, and the Man of the Year by the New Jersey Council for Christians and Jews as well as by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in recognition for his assistance to earthquake victims in Armenia. He received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1993.

Hovnanian’s philanthropic efforts include establishing the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, the Emergency Care Center at Riverview Hospital and the new Cardiology Floor at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City which is currently under construction. He also supported Armenian causes, including the construction of St. Stepanos Armenian Church in Elberon in memory of his mother. Furthermore, he built housing for earthquake victims in Armenia and donated a townhouse for the Armenian Mission to the United Nations in New York City. He also rebuilt the famous Gevorgian Lyceum at the Holy See of Echmiadzin. He served as co-founder and co-chair for the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) for almost two decades and as honorary chair until his death. The list of his American and Armenian philanthropic endeavors is vast.

Diocesan Council Chair and FAR Board of Directors member Oscar Tatosian, who had worked closely with Hovnanian for years, was deeply touched by his death. He said, “We were on a conference call, and here is this guy, running a multibillion dollar business. I asked when can we have another conference call to follow up, and I’m thinking he’s busy, we shouldn’t bother him, but his answer was, ‘Whenever you need me, I’m ready.’ I was so blown away that this guy made so much time for the community.”

He added that Hovnanian could be characterized as “gentle, generous, kind and humble.” He noted, “he treated everyone the same way. He was a true Christian man. He will be missed. He was such a good example.”

Randy Sapah-Gulian, the chairman of the FAR Board of Directors, said, “Mr. Hovnanian was one of the great leaders of our time, someone that I felt was a mentor of mine. The legacy that he will leave behind is tremendous and should anyone be able to accomplish 25 percent of what he did in his lifetime, we would be grateful. He was a great philanthropist, great Armenian and great humanitarian, who will be greatly missed.”

He added, “It was quite extraordinary that for all that he had accomplished in his lifetime, he was a very engaging and wonderful person to be involved with.”

Hovnanian is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Sirwart (Emily), five children and 13 grandchildren.

A memorial service for him will be held on Saturday, October 3 at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, 630 Second Ave., New York, at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Fund for Armenian Relief, 630 Second Ave., New York, NY 10016-4806 or St. Stepanos Armenian Church Endowment Trust Fund, 1184 Ocean Ave., Elberon, NJ 07740.

— Alin K. Gregorian