By Aram Arkun
WATERTOWN – The Ararat Lodge of the Knights of Vartan recognize leadership in the Armenian community and in their own organizations through an annual awards dinner. This year it will take place at the Oakley Country Club in Watertown on Friday, November 6.
To add to the commemorative aspect, the previous year’s award recipients will this year be presenting the new awards. Lisa Kradjian of San Diego, Avak Dirouhie of the Daughters of Vartan, will take part in the program. At the end of the evening, there will be music and dancing provided by DJ Argishti (Chaparian).
James Kalustian will be honored as Vartan Mamigonian Man of the Year. He is president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, member of the Supreme Religious Council of the Church of Armenia, chairman of the Diocesan Council of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and active in many other Armenian-American organizations, while professionally, he founds and helps to scale entrepreneurial health care services and technology businesses.
Playwright and teacher Joyce Van Dyke will be the new Shushanik Mamigonian Woman of the Year. She teaches at Northeastern and Harvard Extension School and has authored many award-winning plays on Armenian topics, including the Karabagh war, the Armenian Genocide and the American-Armenian immigrant experience. Her play “Daybreak,” about two women survivors of the Armenian Genocide, is being performed at Tuft University’s Balch Arena Theater from October 29 to November 7.
The Mamigonian Family Community Leader Award is being given to the Ashjian family. Joseph Ashjian, born in Aintab and raised in Syria, became a pharmacist, but loved the theater from a young age and founded a theater group in Syria. After immigrating to the US, he took over the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)’s Baronian Theater Group and energetically supported the Armenian Evangelical Memorial Church of Watertown, and the Knights of Vartan. He passed away in 1993. His wife Alice supported him in all of his endeavors, and even served as a prompter backstage during his plays.
Their first-born child, Sona Ashjian, worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and now in the Armenian Memorial Church, while supporting the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston. Their eldest son Apo directed the AGBU Daron Dance Ensemble and began performing in plays at a young age alongside his father. Apo founded the independent Sayat Nova Company in 1986. He married Arlét (Ghoughasian). The youngest son, Hagop, works with his brother in the dance company. He married Arpie Ohannessian. The Ashjian grandchildren are also active in the Armenian community.
The Vartan Mamigonian Young Leaders Award will be given to Zareh Zurabyan, Armine Afeyan, Michael Demirchian, and Karina Demurchyan. They are young activists who successfully organized a vigil as part of the Boston Armenian community’s commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide this year. Zurabyan from a young age has been involved in supporting Armenian activities, including the Armenian Tree Project and genocide education programs. A co-program director of the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee of Boston, Zurabyan worked toward the inclusiveness of the vigil and helped develop the multimedia program. Demirchian, with leadership experience in the Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian Church Youth Organization of America and the Armenian Student Association at Northeastern University, was an excellent organizer.
Afeyan, involved in the Boston community from a young age, wrote her Yale thesis on a comparison of the Namibian and Armenian Genocides. After graduation she became involved in the Armenian Heritage Park, and started a vigil in the park in 2013. She was a co-chair of the vigil committee and member of the Massachusetts Centennial Committee.
Demurchyan has been involved in the Sayat Nova Company since 2007, and has been active with the Armenian Tree Project, Friends of Armenian Culture Society and the Armenian Business Network.
Finally, the Ghevont Yeretz Faithful Knight for 2015 will be George Haroutunian, born in Chelsea, Mass. He has frequently served on the parish council of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge, Mass., and for six years was its chairman. He has been a Diocesan delegate for 32 years. A member of the Knights since 1975, he served as commander of Haik Lodge from 1981 to 1982. Haroutunian joined the US armed forces during the Korean War, then worked in the Air National Guard, and saw active duty during the Berlin conflict of 1961. In 1968 he changed careers and worked 24 years in law enforcement with the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts.
A reception will begin at 7 o’clock at Oakley Country Club (410 Belmont Street), and dinner at 8 pm. Tickets cost $100 per person, with complimentary parking. For reservations, email [email protected]