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Retired Professor Dr. Arra Avakian Passes Away

Staff Report

Dr. Arra Avakian Photo: Barlow Der Mugrdechian
Dr. Arra Avakian
Photo: Barlow Der Mugrdechian

Former Fresno State Armenian Studies professor Dr. Arra Avakian passed away in Fresno on Wednesday, June 30. He was born in 1912 in Boston, to parents Setrak and Takoohi Avakian, who had emigrated from Kharpert, Armenia.

Dr. Avakian graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and upon completing graduate study in 1935 was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science in the fields of Mathematics and Physics.

Dr. Avakian was appointed Professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno in 1970. Several years later, he took a similar position at the newly formed American Armenian International College, in La Verne, California. Dr. Avakian contributed to the initiation of the Armenian studies programs at both institutions.

In October of 2002 Dr. Avakian donated his professional Armenological library of an estimated 3,000 books and pamphlets to the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State; 95% of the material has a direct connection to Armenian matters. The collection is specialized and valuable to Armenian studies. An estimated 60% of the books are in English, with the remainder in Armenian.

Dr. Avakian was the author of The Eaglet, Armenian Journey through History, as well as sixteen translations of books from Armenian into English. He was deeply involved in Armenian community life and in the study of the Armenian culture for many years.

Dr. Avakian held leadership positions in such community organizations as the Armenian Students’ Association of America, NAASR, the Armenian Assembly, the Knights of Vartan, and the Armenian Church. Avakian was elected a delegate to the National Ecclesiastical Assembly at the Holy See of the Armenian Church, at Etchmiadzin, for the election of Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians.

Also, in that same year, he was awarded the St. Sahag-St. Mesrop Medal of Honor by the Catholicos, together with an Encyclical (Gontag) commending him for his long years of fruitful service to the church.

Dr. Avakian traveled extensively, with visits to Armenian centers throughout the world, especially in historic Armenia and the Republic of Armenia, often forming and guiding tourist groups.

He was married to the former Georgia Keosaian who died in 2004. He is survived by five children: Arsine, Armine, Arra, Armen, and Arten, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.