BELMONT, Mass. — The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) held its 62nd Assembly of Members on Saturday, May 14, and welcomed five new members to its 27-member Board of Directors. The newly elected Board members are: philanthropist Edward Avedisian of Lexington, Mass.; author and activist Nancy Kricorian of New York City; co-organizer of the first Armenian Genealogy conference George Aghjayan of Westminster, Mass.; engineer and community activist Jirair Balayan of Auburn, Mass.; and distinguished scholar Dr. Bedross Der Matossian of Lincoln, Neb.
“We are honored to welcome Board members of this caliber as we set our course for the next 60 years,” said the new Chairman of the Board Yervant Chekijian, of Watertown. Chekijian replaces Raffi Yeghiayan, who is stepping down after six years of leadership as Chairman. Yeghiayan will remain active as an advisor on NAASR’s Executive Committee.
Engaging Talk by Amb. Rouben Shougarian
Preceding the Board elections were remarks from former Ambassador Rouben Shougarian of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Armenia’s first Ambassador to the United States (1993-99). Shougarian acknowledged the fruitful cooperation he has enjoyed with NAASR as he began his talk titled, “Building a New Generation of Armenian Leaders through the Tavitian Scholarship Program at the Fletcher School.”
All 15 of the current Tavitian scholars from Armenia, as well as alumna Olya Yordanyan, were present as NAASR’s guests, and introduced themselves. This is the 17th group of Tavitian scholars, who now number over 250, most in key leadership positions in Armenia, as Shougarian pointed out. While detailing several major crises Armenia has faced recently, he found cause for hope in Armenia’s strong response and in the talent of the first generation of scholars born in independent Armenia.
Reports were also presented at the Assembly concerning NAASR’s ongoing efforts to further Armenian studies, research, and publication. The outgoing Board members were thanked for their dedication and commitment: Dr. Geri Lyn Ajemian, of Watertown, director of curriculum, Littleton Public Schools; Adi Ignatius, of Brooklyn, NY, and Cambridge, Mass., editor-in-chief, Harvard Business Review; Bertha Mugurdichian, of Providence, RI, retired nurse educator and NAASR member since 1958; and Dr. James Russell, of Cambridge, longtime Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies, Harvard University.
Distinguished New Board Members
The newly elected NAASR Board members are each highly distinguished in their fields. Avedisian is a musician, academic, investor and philanthropist, retired after 30 years as clarinetist with the Boston Pops and 43 seasons with the Boston Ballet Orchestra. He is a 2016 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and a member of the NAASR Leadership Circle. He is active with the American University of Armenia, and the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and is the key benefactor of numerous schools and education centers in Armenia, including the Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian K-12 School and the Community Center in Malatia-Sepastia. He was twice awarded the Movses Khorentasi Medal by Armenia’s President Sargsyan for Contributions to Education, Culture, Literature and the Arts.
Kricorian is a novelist, poet, activist and longtime member of the NAASR Leadership Circle. Her novels include Zabelle, Dreams of Bread and Fire, and All The Light There Was, set in the Armenian community of Paris during World War II. She has taught at Yale, Columbia and Barnard Colleges, among others, and received numerous awards and fellowships for her writing. She is also on the Executive Committee of the Armenia Tree Project.
Aghjayan retired in 2014 after a career in insurance and structured finance. He is an active member of NAASR and was one of the organizers of the recently concluded Armenian Genealogy Conference. He is currently chairman of the Board of Trustees of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church of Worcester, and has done extensive research on Armenian demographics in the Ottoman Empire, which has led to several articles in English and Turkish.
Balayan is a senior nuclear engineer at Engineering Planning and Management. Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, he received his early education at the Nubarian Armenian School. He has been an active NAASR member for several years, and has been a volunteer Armenian School teacher for the last 10 years at the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators in Framingham, Mass.
Der Matossian is an associate professor of history at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln. Born in Jerusalem, he graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed his PhD in Middle East History at Columbia University. He is the author of Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire (Stanford University Press 2014), which received NAASR’s Dr. Sona Aronian Book Prize for Excellence in Armenian Studies. His articles have appeared in numerous academic journals.