By Florence Avakian
BAYSIDE, N.Y. — The great American writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “The purpose of life if to be useful, honorable, compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” This has been, and is the history of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School (HMADS) during its 45 years. This special anniversary was celebrated with many notable events during 2012, culminating with its 30th commencement exercises on Friday, June 15.
Attending were special guests Ambassador Garen Nazarian and Armenian Foreign Ministry representative Tigran Sarkissian, as well as a number of HMADS current benefactors, including Barbara Peters, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Dadourian, Mr. and Mrs. Noubar Mahdessian, Mr. and Mrs. Vahan Tanal and Mr. and Mrs. Hratch Arukian.
As the parade of teachers and graduates marched into the Holy Martyrs Kalustyan Hall, the overflow crowd of parents, friends and supporters gave them a standing ovation. The dedicated principal of the school since 1987, Zarmine Boghosian, welcomed all present with her well known enthusiasm and beaming smile, and declared, “It takes a whole village to raise a child. This school is a small diamond with 45 years of life, with 240 graduates in these 45 years. We are here, we prospered and our children are talented.”
The five graduates, Shushan Agavian, Vartkes Arakelian, Melissa Ashbahian, Sarkis Galstian and Nicole Mark started the program by singing the American, Armenian and HMADS anthems, after which they presented a series of Armenian and English poems dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Armenian printing, which is also being celebrated this year. These included works by Hagop Meghabard’s first Armenian book published in Venice, Italy in 1512, and poetry written by David Kherdian. The fifth- and sixth-grade students delighted the audience with several Armenian and American songs and recitations.
The HMADS 45th anniversary was emphasized through the creative writings of the graduating class as it paid tribute to the founding fathers of the school — Suren D. Allelemjian, George G. Bashian, Dadour Dadourian, Suren D. Fesjian, Edward Peters, as well as the bene- factor of the HMADS Endowment Fund Irwin Wayne Uran.
HMADS alumna Hooshere Bezdikian- Kaligian, a 1987 graduate, in her keynote address, in both English and Armenian, called HMADS “our second home,” and reminded the graduates that “your sense of self-identity and character development were nurtured here. This school did more than educate you. It shaped you. The years you spent here are a special gift. You, your teachers and your friends in this school are one big family.”
Currently the vice president of the People’s Choice Awards, as well as a professional singer and songwriter, Bezdikian-Kaligian pointed out that her singing was “nurtured” while she was a student here. Speaking directly to the graduates, she urged them to “hold tightly to your roots as Armenians, and cherish, respect and continue your culture. This school is a small Armenia. These are the pillars. Explore beyond our community; spread your wings; follow your heart; pursue your dreams and respect your parents, teachers and most of all yourself. These bonds will last a lifetime.”
Special awards given by state, city and differ- ent Armenian organizations were announced, and the teachers of the school were acknowl- edged from Hye Bardez, nursery, pre-kinder- garten to sixth grade, including those of the graduating class — Houri Ghougassian (Armenian) and Christopher Conterelli (home room), as well as the piano accompanists Janet Marcarian, Nevart Z. Dadourian and choirmas- ter Anahid Boghossian.
The evening’s high point came as each grad- uate stepped forward to receive the diploma from both Ambassador Nazarian and Boghosian, who again reminded the graduates that “the most important lesson to be learned is character. Character means doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
Nazarian in his remarks congratulated the school on its anniversary and expressed appre- ciation to the parents, teachers and students.
“Your achievement is an enormous source of pride for Armenia and America,” he said, and stressed the “primary importance” of the Armenian language. “We recognize the importance of the Armenian schools in the diaspora in keeping Armenia strong, and preserving our heritage. Our children are the stewards of our future,” he noted, and urged the graduates to “stay faithful to your heritage.” (During this anniversary year, one of the most anticipated events took place when fourth- and fifth-grade HMADs students, carrying American and Armenian flags, were invited to Battery Park to meet Armenian President Serge Sargisian.) During the graduation ceremonies, Arek Nisanyan and Edouard Garabedian, co-chairs of the HMADS Board of Directors, also addressed the graduates and attendees, pointing out the school’s role in nurturing “family values” which involves not only the academic program, but also the ties to the Armenian community. Following bouquets of flowers presented to Boghosian, and school secretary Maro Jamgotchian, the crowd enjoyed a festive evening of congratulations and succulent Armenian delicacies that lasted long into the evening.