There was a celebratory and cheerful atmosphere in the Fresno State University Dining Hall, on a rainy Sunday, March 20th, when the Armenian Studies Program held its 23rd Annual Banquet.
The decorated hall was filled to capacity with students, their proud families, Armenian Studies Program faculty, administrators, and supporters from the Armenian community, and honored guest Fresno State President Dr. John Welty.
The festivities included an opening reception with wonderful food and drinks, and the Clendenin Brass Quintet serenaded the guests as they entered the Hall. The program began with an invocation by Rev. Fr. Yeghia Hairabedian, Pastor of the St. Gregory Armenian Church in Fowler.
Prof. Der Mugrdechian then recognized special guests included Dr. Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute of Yerevan; Dr. James Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies from Harvard; Jose Diaz Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities; Mark Arax, the Roger Tatarian Chair in the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism; Dr. Matthew Jendian, Chair of the Department of Sociology; and Arakel Arisian, instructor in the Department of Finance and Business Law.
Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Coordinator of the Armenian Studies Program, and Dr. Sergio La Porta, Haig and Isabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies each made brief introductory remarks. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fresno State Dr. William Covino spoke about the state of the University, and articulated a vision for the University’s future.
“California State University will become nationally recognized for education that transforms students and improves the quality of life in the region and beyond,” Dr. Covino said. “We will power the new California through the 21st century.”
Dr. Covino commented on Dr. Welty’s advocacy and dedication for the Armenian Studies program, a commitment that has been important for the Fresno community and the university.
“This program [the Armenian Studies Program] is a golden thread in the fabric of the university,” Dr. Covino said.
A photomontage honoring Dr. Welty and his tenure at Fresno State prepared by the Armenian Studies Program was then presented. Among the memorable photos were images of Dr. Welty over the years with special guests of the Armenian Studies Program, which showed Dr. Welty’s commitment to the Armenian community. Included among the special memories was an extraordinary visit from His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians in 2005 and Dr. Welty’s visit to Fresno States’ sister-university Yerevan State University in 2004.
Prof. Der Mugrdechian then introduced Dr. Welty, who is now completing his twentieth year as President of Fresno State. Dr. Welty was welcomed with a warm round of applause from the audience and then gave the keynote address.
“The opportunity that I had to learn more about the Armenian culture and to work with so many members of the Armenian community, that has been one of the very special highlights of my years at Fresno State,” Dr. Welty said. “You have made a major contribution to our intellectual life, you also have made a major contribution to demonstrating that education is important.”
Dr. Welty’s address ended with a passionate call for a reinvestment in the education of our community, and of the state’s universities. “We have to invest in education if we’re going to have a community in which our children and our grandchildren will want to live. On behalf of the Program, Prof. Der Mugrdechian and Prof. La Porta presented Dr. Welty a gift of a painting by noted local artist Varaz Samuelian.
Prof. Der Mugrdechian then introduced students who were recipients of Armenian Studies scholarships and also the executive officers of the ASO. Forty-seven students were called upon to come to the front of the Hall, with each receiving a letter of recognition from Senator Dianne Feinstein and special gift from the ASP, Garin K. Hovannisian’s book Family of Shadows.
Guests enjoyed a very memorable evening as the Armenian Studies Program organized a beautiful celebration of another year of educational, academic and community-wide success.
ASP Banquet Donors
Alice & Berge Bulbulian
Bob Der Mugrdechian
Dianne & Arnold Gazarian
Mrs. Herbert Lion
Betty Ann Hagopian
G. Franklin Antoyan
George and Mary Atashkarian
Oscar and Jan Kasparian
Mr. & Mrs. Robert S. Manselian
Michael and Jackline Matosian
Dr. & Mrs. Dennis and Rita Shamlian
Jim and Anna Shekoyan
Elizabeth T. Barsamian
Mr. & Mrs. Bill and Barbara Bohigian
Carol Kasparian Campbell
Fr. Hovsep Hagopian
Vernon and Sylvia Shahbazian
Dr. Harold Takooshian
Greg and Joan Zierott
Thanks to Mike Missakian for donating the wine.
Thanks to Greg Kohayan for preparing the mezza.
Thanks to Zar Der Mugrdechian for the centerpieces.
Thanks to Lucy Erysian and Ali Peyvandi for general support