WALTHAM, Mass. (Combined Sources) — Gregory H. Adamian, who served as president of Bentley College — now Bentley University — from 1970 to 1991, and then as its first chancellor, died on November 21. He was 89 years old.
Adamian was a member of the Law Department faculty when he was elected president in 1970. Under his leadership, Bentley was transformed from a small, regional accounting school to an innovator in business education with a national reputation. During Adamian’s tenure, Bentley’s development was comprehensive. Full- and part-time enrollment doubled while the faculty grew in number from 42 to 350.
Bentley was an innovator in a number of academic areas under Adamian’s leadership. The Center for Business Ethics, among the first such academic centers in the nation, was founded in 1976. In 1985, Bentley became the first college to require laptop computers for all students. And its business offerings were supplemented in the 1980s by programs and majors in English, history and philosophy. A commitment to excellence in ethics and social responsibility, information technology and the art & sciences remains essential to Bentley’s mission today.
Adamian was involved in the building of more than two dozen campus buildings. He increased the endowment from over $350,000 to $60 million when he retired as president. Today it is in the range of $200 million. An adept fundraiser, his Armenian contacts came in handy here. He was close friends with Detroit industrialists and philanthropists Alex Manoogian and Edward Mardigian. Adamian was on the board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) when Manoogian was its president, and was frequently invited to lecture for the AGBU. After each lecture, Manoogian would send a check for $5,000 to Bentley. Manoogian donated several hundred thousand dollars to build the president’s house at the Bentley campus. Mardigian donated part of the graduate center for $150,000.
His impact on Bentley was recognized in many ways, including the creation of the Gregory H. Adamian Professorship in Law and the Gregory Adamian Award for Teaching Excellence.
Adamian retired as president in 1991 to become chancellor and president emeritus, in which roles he was an ambassador and fundraiser. He served on the Board of Trustees until 2002 when he was elected trustee emeritus. He received honorary degrees in 1991 from Bentley and Boston University.
Adamian was born in Somerville on September 17, 1926. He graduated from Harvard College in 1947, and later from Boston University Law School. He also held an MPA from the Graduate School of Public Administration at Harvard (today the Kennedy School). He practiced law in Cambridge and began teaching law and economics part-time at Bentley in 1955, when it was still located on Boylston Street. He became a full-time faculty member in 1968.
Adamian was a respected spokesman for higher education. As chairman, vice chairman and treasurer of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM), he was a strong advocate for increased financial aid. He was also a member of many corporate and non-profit boards, including Liberty Mutual, the Massachusetts Higher Education Assistance Corporation, West End House and Inroads.
Adamian was a leading member of the Armenian-American community and an articulate spokesman on the Armenian Genocide. A founding director of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, he helped establish an endowed chair in Armenian studies at Harvard University. In 1990, he received the Humanity Award from the organization Facing History and Ourselves for his work as a spokesman for the Armenian-American community. He was also a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2007. He served on the boards of the International Armenian General Benevolent Union, St. Nersess Seminary and the Armenian National Science and Education Fund. In 1998, he received the medal of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob from Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians.
In 2012, the Mirror-Spectated awarded him the a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Armenian Mirror-Spectator’s benefit gala, “Celebrating 80 Years and Beyond.”
Adamian’s father came to Boston from Aintab after the Genocide, while his mother’s parents had fled Kharpert to Worcester even earlier, before his mother was born.
His grandmother, who lived with his parents, could not speak English, therefore his first language and only language was Armenian until he began elementary school. The family moved to Brooklyn for a few years, where the family was in a less Armenian environment, but Adamian’s father was hired as a bilingual compositor by the Armenian Mirror-Spectator and Baikar and they moved to Watertown.
Adamian skipped several grades to graduate high school early and began work at the Hood Rubber Company, in whose sweatshop-like factory many Watertown Armenians found employment, including, briefly, artist Arshile Gorky.
At the very end of World War II, he joined the navy, which sent him to college and officer training. He graduated from Harvard University and received a commission as an officer. He went to the Pacific for a year after the war was over.
Adamian was one of the founders of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research and served for some 50 years on its board. He was president of the Council for Immigration and Resettlement of Armenians. In 1956, he testified at a Washington Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on behalf of this organization for a bill to assist Armenian immigration into the US, together with other prominent Armenians.
Adamian was an associate trustee of the Armenian Assembly of America. He became a frequent lecturer on the Armenian Genocide for Armenian organizations, speaking nearly every April.
Adamian’s ties to the Baikar Association and the Mirror run deep. He worked while young on Saturdays to help wrap newspapers for mailing. At that time the Baikar offices were on Shawmut Avenue in Boston proper.
Adamian is survived by his wife, Debbie Murdza Adamian of Medford, and Boca Raton, Fla.; children Douglas and his wife Angela and Daniel and his wife Carrie Ellen; Brother-in-law of Diana Adamian, Valerie Daniel, Victoria Rowland, Randal Murdza and Garret Murdza. Loving grandfather of Jenna, Anna, Julia, Addison and Olivia. Uncle of Wendy Avedisian, Denise Oldham, Jeremy Daniel, Gillian Daniel and Nicholas Daniel.
Funeral services were at Saint James Armenian Church, 465 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, on Monday, November 30. Interment was at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.
Arrangements were by Aram Bedrosian Funeral Home.