Vartan Gregorian Receives Dean’s Medal at Tufts


By Alin K. Gregorian

Mirror-Spectator Staff


MEDFORD, Mass. — Dr. Vartan Gregorian brought the dichotomy that defines him — stellar academic and intellectual achievements and supreme low-key and humorous attitude — to a formal luncheon at Tufts University on May 22, when he received the Fletcher School Dean’s Medal, from Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco. The award is given by the dean to honor those who have demonstrated distinguished service to education and to the school’s greater mission of promoting peace, prosperity and justice in the world.


Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Dean Admiral James Stavridis introduced Gregorian and enumerated his achievements.


“He has received 70 honorary degrees” during the course of “a life that is original in every sense and American in every sense,” Stavridis said. “He is a scholar, historian and great friend of this community.”


Gregorian is the president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant-making institution founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. Prior to his current position, which he assumed in June 1997, Gregorian served for nine years as the president of Brown University.


Born in Tabriz, Iran, to Armenian parents, he got his PhD from Stanford. He was the founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and four years later became its provost until 1981. Gregorian served as a president of the New York Public Library, bringing it back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Gregorian is the author of The Road to Home: My Life And Times, Islam: A Mosaic, Not A Monolith, and The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, 1880-1946.

He serves on several boards including the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, and the American Academy in Berlin. He has been decorated by the French, Italian, Austrian and Portuguese governments. In 1986, Gregorian was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and in 1989 the American Academy and the Institute of Arts and Letters’ Gold Medal for Service to the Arts. In 1998, President Clinton awarded him the National Humanities Medal. In 2004, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award. In 2009, President Obama appointed him to the White House Fellowships Commission.

The luncheon was sponsored by the Tavitian Scholarship Program at the Fletcher School, which has been funded for the past dozen years by Aso Tavitian’s Tavitian Foundation. The program sponsors midcareer professionals from Armenia to get a six-month training course at Fletcher. There are currently about 200 graduates of the program in Armenia.


Tavitian expressed his pleasure at hosting Gregorian. “He is an individual that I really and truly admire,” he said. He also spoke about the 15 students from Armenia at the Fletcher School. “They are the future of Armenia,” he said.


Gregorian spoke at length about the history of philanthropy and the difference between philanthropy and charity. “They are really different sides of the same coin,” he said, with charity having a religious inspiration and philanthropy a secular one.


He traced the history of civil society and philanthropy to the 17th century, when groups formed to fight fires and to light street lamps. Universities, he said, were early recipients of philanthropy. Close to home, he said, John Harvard donated his immense library and land in Cambridge toward the formation of a university that would bear his name. Yale similarly was founded by philanthropic donors. Benjamin Franklin, Gregorian said, was also a pioneer in the field, founding in Philadelphia, among many other things, the first public library in the world.


Gregorian said that the most famous proponent of free trade and small government, Adam Smith, was a dedicated and early advocate of charitable giving as an obligation for the wealthy.

Gregorian compared and contrasted the most famous modern American names in charitable giving, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. The former, he said, approached giving from a religious point of view, as a Baptist. The latter, he explained, did so from a secular approach to better society.  The list of donations by Carnegie is awe inspiring, ranging from founding 5,400 public libraries in the US, to Carnegie Melon University, the Palace of Justice at The Hague, and even 7,200 organs to churches throughout the country.


He also paid tribute to two donors in the audience, Carolyn Mugar and Tavitian.

“They have ideas, they invest and they see the results,” he said.

He added, “I hope that those Armenians that are here will start that tradition of community organizing in Armenia.”


The program ended with a toast to Gregorian by Artur Hovsepyan, one of the Tavitian scholars, and questions from the audience.


The Tavitian scholars are: Armen Aslikyan, Artashes Avagyan, Alina Aznauryan, Sargis Deghoyan, Azat Gabrielyan, Arthur Hovsepyan, Anna Kartshikyan, Hayk Makhasyan, Karen Mukhsyan, Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, Lilit Petrosyan, Zaruhi Postanjyan, Hayk Tutunjian, Artak Yergenyan an Hayk Zayimtsyan.