PHILADELPHIA — The Knights and Daughters of Vartan gathered in Philadelphia July 6-10, to celebrate the Knights’ 100th anniversary and hold the organization’s 98th National Grand Convocation.
The convocation was presided over by the Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan, Steven Kradjian of San Diego, and the Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan, Sona Manuelian of New Jersey.
A call for service leadership in all communities and a new chapter of service in the motherland were the major themes throughout the convocation as the brotherhood enters its second century. The five days of workshops, tours, business meetings and evening events were attended by over two hundred Knights and Daughters from across the United States, their families, and many local Armenian youth.
A hallmark of the event included the approval and announcement that the Knights of Vartan will be opening a first-ever Communications Office in Yerevan, to monitor the organization’s many charitable projects and forge new public and private partnerships. The organization is sponsoring a trip to Armenia from September 14-24, to launch the Communications Office and tour various sites and institutions the Knights and Daughters support.
The convocation was an energetic time of new dialogues on topics and projects relevant to all Armenians, and on building friendships old and new.
The convocation began on Wednesday, July 6 with a fellowship gathering and film screening of a documentary on author William Saroyan, produced by Dr. Paul and Dr. Susie Kalinian of Fresno, who were present for a question-and-answer session after the screening. Audience members shared their own memories of Saroyan and his impact on the Armenian community and beyond.
Earlier in the day, members took a tour of Philadelphia and visited various sights such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, site of the famous “Rocky” statue and steps, and the famous Armenian “Meher” statue sponsored by the Knights of Vartan during the US Bicentennial in 1976.
Workshops and Events
On Thursday, the Knights and Daughters held an all-day program of workshops dedicated to the Armenian homeland and Diaspora, including a panel on the organization’s next century of service, organization protocols, and special projects including the upcoming Knights of Vartan trip to Armenia.
In the evening guests convened for the official Welcome Reception hosted by Grand Commander Steve Kradjian and Grand Matron Sona Manuelian, featuring the 100th anniversary dinner celebration with cuisine from Philadelphia (where the organization began), Boston, Chicago and New York — where the first Knights lodges were launched 100 years ago.
Friday event featured a Kef Night with the famed oud player Richard Hagopian and his band, performing favorite Armenian and other selections for a dinner and dancing audience of hundreds. More than 100 additional Armenian young professionals joined the event later in the evening for the unforgettable music. More than $2,500 was raised for Armenian aid to Artsakh (Karabagh).
On Friday and Saturday, the convocation annual business meetings were held on a number of projects and efforts, including the wide reach of charitable work the Knights and Daughters spearheaded during the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The Knights and Daughters of Vartan Armenian School Support Project, for example, transferred $138,158 to the Armenia Territorial Development Fund for renovation of schools in Armenia through the assistance of World Bank, which will match the funds multifold. The brotherhood also helped the Artsakh Soldiers and families with donations of $32,250, sent to Armenia $15,880 worth of medical aid, awarded $16,450 of scholarships to college students in Armenia and $20,200 to Armenian students at schools in the US, and overall spent $123,000 for different humanitarian projects.
Grand Banquet and Man and Woman of the Year
As the convocation’s final event, the Grand Banquet was presided over by the convocation committee co-chairs, Past Commanders Gerald Najarian and Greg Meranshian, and was blessed by an invocation and benediction from the Rev. Hakop Gevorgyan, who also read an encyclical from Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, in honor of the Knights of Vartan’s cenennial.
Grigor Hovhannissian, Ambassador of Armenia to the US, was selected as the Knights of Vartan Man of the Year.
Hovhannissian demonstrated leadership and service to the Armenian community as consul general in Los Angeles, cultivated the Armenian communities as Armenia’s Ambassador to Mexico and is now playing a pivotal role in the stability of Armenia in the Caucasus as Armenian Ambassador to the United States. In his remarks, the Ambassador gratefully received the Man of the Year Award as a ‘credit’ toward his future work to the homeland.
Turkish Historian Dr. Fatma Goçek was elected the Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year.
Goçek has written many books and articles supporting the Armenian Genocide, with comparative analysis of history, politics and gender in the first and third worlds. Her latest book entitled Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present and the Collective Violence Against Armenians, 1789-2009, received the American Sociological Association’s Best Book Award in 2015. Her daughter accepted the award on her mother’s behalf.
Nazar Nazarian of New Jersey was also awarded a Knights of Vartan Lifetime Achievement Award for his leadership, philanthropy and service to the Armenian Community, which exemplify the values of the Knights of Vartan.
The local Ardashad Lodge No. 5 and Shooshanig Chapter No. 1 in Philadelphia spent two years planning the 2016 National Grand Convocation. Committee members included: Greg Meranshian, co-chair; Gerry Najarian, co-chair; Virginia Shakarjian, co-chair; Diane Williames, Co-Chair; Bryan Peckjian; Antranig Derderian; Avo Arzoumanian; Hratch Arzoumanian; Howard Garabedian; Vicken Bazarbashian; Ashod Petrosyan, Hagop Handian; Talene Peckjian; Grace Meranshian; Gabrielle Meranshian; Ara Shakarjian; Berjoohy Murray; Linda Boornazian and Araxi Bozadjian.
The next Grand Convocation will be held in Boston on August 8, 2017. Visit www.kofv.org or The Knights and Daughters of Vartan Facebook page.