LOS ANGELES — The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region proudly announced the official establishment of the Walter and Laurel Karabian Foundation for Public Policy. Housed under the ANCA-WR, the Foundation will be the first Sacramento based fellowship program of its kind with the goal of preparing the next generation of Armenian-American policy leaders.
“The ANCA-WR has been looking to establish such a program in Sacramento for many years, and Mr. Karabian’s generosity has finally enabled us to do so. Throughout his life, Mr. Karabian has mentored countless young individuals, paving the way and guiding them in their pursuit of higher education, community service and public office, and it is only fitting that his legacy and work continue through this fellowship program,” noted ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “We are grateful to Mr. Karabian for entrusting us with this unique program that will serve our community for generations to come and will empower our youth to seek careers in public policy,” added Hovsepian.
Initially announced in late October in front of over 1,400 supporters, donors, and activists during the ANCA-WR Annual Gala Banquet where the Honorable Walter Karabian was honored with the ANCA WR Legacy Award, the fellowship program is geared toward recent college graduates and is made possible by the Karabian family’s generous funding.
“Having been a legislator and leading a productive life in politics, I know firsthand the value of programs that will develop the next generation of leaders,” stated Karabian. “The ANCA-WR is the leading Armenian advocacy organization and has a strong track record of deliverables, which include internship and externship programs for the youth in the community. For this reason, it is my honor to help plant the seeds for a much needed public policy program for our youth in the Golden State’s Capital. I am confident that under the supervision of the ANCA-WR, this program will expand and flourish in coming years to produce a generation of new policy leaders,” added Karabian.
“It has been a wonderful, productive, and glorious life for me, and I gratefully accept this honor. Do I have any regrets? Yes, several, but only two loom large in my memory. I wish my wonderful wife Laurel could be with us tonight. Having left us a year ago, she would have loved this evening and the continuation of the Armenian Nationalism of her father, Arshag Dickranian. I also regret the fact that I was not persuasive enough to convince George Deukmejian to pardon Hampig Sassounian.”
The yearlong fellowship will be divided into two six month long phases. During the first six months, fellows will work on public policy related matters in Sacramento ranging from state office holders and administrative offices, to non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, labor unions and consulting firms. During the second six months, fellows will work exclusively for one legislator in the Assembly or Senate.
In addition to the projects assigned to them by supervisors at the various offices or agencies, fellows will be required to attend networking events and weekly seminars throughout the year, providing professional training, networking skills, and opportunities to meet other professionals within the public policy sector.
Participants will need to make a commitment of at least one year and will be provided a stipend to assist with housing and living costs.
Karabian is the oldest son of John Karabian and Zevart Shishmanian. Karabian’s paternal family arrived in Fresno in 1896 from Bitlis, and his maternal family was from Dikranagert in Turkish-occupied Armenia.
Karabian served as Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County for two years. Soon after, Karabian became an active political figure in the Democratic Party and focused on a career in politics. In 1966, he was one of the youngest men to ever be elected to the California State Assembly and only the third American-Armenian to be elected to public office in the history of the United States.
While a member of the Legislature, Karabian published various articles and gained a reputation as a significant legal author as well as Legislator. He made substantial contributions to the development of California law concerning crime, prison reform, education, civil rights, free speech, and the preservation of endangered species in California. Karabian used his influence to bring awareness to the Armenian Genocide in California. In 1967, at a time when most people were not aware of the Genocide, Karabian authored the first resolution commemorating the Armenian Genocide in the State Assembly, paving the way for future successes through the community’s activism, including for Armenian Genocide recognition and education.
He is a Trustee of the George Ignatius Foundation. Since 1985, Karabian and his Co-Trustees of the George Ignatius Foundation have been responsible for donating discretionary funds to Armenian organizations totaling over $5 million dollars.
Karabian’s dedication to the Armenian Cause is well-known throughout the world and has had a lasting impact over the Armenian community. In addition to countless other initiatives, Karabian is a founding member of the Armenian Bar Association and the Armenian Film Foundation.
Along with his partner John Karns, Karabian’s law firm earned a reputation for its political networks and legal aptitude, expending its time and resources to assist various institutions throughout the Armenian community by providing legal representation to ANCHA (American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians), the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, AGBU, Holy Martyrs Armenian Ferrahian High School, Armenian Mesrobian School, and the Arshag Dickranian Armenian School where Karabian’s children attended.
In 1988, Karabian married Laurel Dickranian at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in London. They had a daughter, Madeline Araxie. His other children are Benjamin Karabian who is the Supervising Deputy City Attorney for Central Criminal Trials in the City of Los Angeles and Katharine Sarine Giovanardi. Karabian lost his life partner when Laurel passed away in late 2014. Laurel was the youngest daughter of benefactors Arshag and Eleanor Dickranian of Beverly Hills.
Applications and additional details will soon be forthcoming.