Knights and Daughters of Vartan Hold Grand Convocation in Boston

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BOSTON — “Boston Knights Light the Way” was the theme for the 91st Knights of Vartan and 69th Daughters of Vartan Grand Convocation held at the Westin Copley Place Hotel, during the week of June 30 – July 5, hosted by Ararat #1 Knights Lodge, Commander Nelson Stepanian, and Arpie #9 Daughters Otyag (chapter) of Boston and Donna Deranian, matron.

The Convocation Committee was headed by Robert M. Avakian and a team of Ararat Lodge and Arpie Otyag members.

Two days of intense business meetings were held separately by the Knights and Daughters, during which delegates deliberated on various current issues and election of the officers for the ensuing year. The Knights reelected Haig K. Deranian as grand commander, Charles S. Guleserian as vice commander, Jack Medzorian as grand chaplain, Ara Balikian Esq. as grand secretary, Edward Juskalian as grand treasurer (new candidate), Sarkis Gennetian as grand master of ceremonies and Arto Kurkjian as grand sentinel. The Daughters elected a new Grand Council, replacing the outgoing Grand Council headed by Grand Matron Anita Arslanian. The new council is headed by Grand Matron Melene Ouzounian and includes Geraldine Tahajian, Peggy Kalemkarian, Salpy Adams, Betty Farsakian, Kathy Bedrosian and Rozine Bedoyan.

Awards

The Knights made special recognition awards during its meetings to honor individual members who demonstrated exemplary service during the year. These included Antranik Cingoz from San Francisco, who personally raised over $100,000 from friends and associates all over the world for the Knights of Vartan Armenia School Support Project. Also recognized were the efforts of Michael Gulbankian for his past service on the Armenia Adopt a School Project, James Kalustian and state Rep. Peter Koutoujian for their efforts in spearheading the Armenian Heritage Park and Genocide Memorial on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway.

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During the meetings, donations made during the year 2008-09 by the Knights and Daughters to various Armenian charitable and humanitarian causes in their local communities and Armenia were reported, totaling $543,341. The various lodges of the Knights made donations which totaled $477,094, including $133,916 for the Armenia School Support Project (matched nine for one by the World Bank) and a container of medical equipment and supplies for Karabagh valued at $296,500 (this was the sixth container shipped for a grand total value of $2,500,000 in this effort). The Daughters reported donations of $66,255, including support of the Fuller program for housing in Armenia.

Armenia School Support Project

In his annual report, the Armenia School Support Committee Chairman Levon Karakashian pointed out that since its inception in the year 2000, the project has raised $1,937,558, which has been matched by the World Bank to total $19,375,576 of construction work performed for 187 needy school projects in Armenia. The funds raised by the Knights of Vartan came from individual lodges, members, non-members and charitable foundations in the USA and abroad. The members applauded the work of the committee for their efforts in this flagship program of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan in serving critical needs of schools in Armenia.

Reports were also made by committee chairpersons of other programs, which included the Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian Studies, the Knights of Vartan Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan and the annual Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee. Also reported was the outstanding progress of the Armenian Heritage Park and Genocide Memorial on Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway, spearheaded by Knights of Vartan members of the Ararat Lodge #1 in Boston who initiated the project and united all of the Armenian organizations in Massachusetts to participate. It was reported that all approvals are now in hand, final fund raising is in progress and ground breaking is expected shortly.

LobsterFest

The week was kicked off by various Boston tours and a cocktail reception hosted by Grand Commander Haig Deranian and outgoing Grand Matron Anita Arslanian but the first official event was the LobsterFest, which was held Thursday, June 2, at the site of the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown. After music, hors d’oeuvres, tours of Old Ironsides and a lobster meal, Koutoujian, the evening’s master of ceremonies, informed the group of the Armenian connection with the Constitution, based on extensive research done by Dr. Martin Deranian. In 1905, the Navy proposed using the ship for target practice, but Armenian immigrant and Boston businessman Moses Gulesian offered $10,000 to preserve her. Gulesian’s gesture made headlines, aroused interest, and eventually Congress appropriated funds for repairs.

The Friday, June 3 event began with an unusual exhibition. The host lodge Ararat #1 arranged for a special statue display of St. Vartan Mamigonian. Many photos were taken with the statue and more than a few were startled when the statue changed position. After the visit with the living statue, the group moved into the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center in Watertown, for an evening of Armenian mezza and dancing to the music of the Johnny Berberian Ensemble.
Grand Banquet

The week of activities was capped by the July 4 Grand Banquet attended by nearly 300 Knights, Daughters and guests to see presentations to Man of the Year Hirant Gulian, recognition of the humanitarian work of Baroness Caroline Cox and scholarship recipient Garine Ashjian, one of six college student winners throughout the United States and Canada that the Knights award annually. Deranian addressed the gathering and underscored the Knights of Vartan New Vision, which was the subject of workshops and meeting sessions. Deranian stated that “…the Knights respect the traditions and beliefs inherent in our heritage, but also endeavor to pave the way for new ideas in the coming years.” The banquet ended just in time for the group to be able to witness the fireworks after the Boston Pops annual concert.

Man of the Year Hirant Glian and Grand Commander Haig K. Deranian
Man of the Year Hirant Glian and Grand Commander Haig K. Deranian

Convocation Committee

Upon the conclusion of a busy week, Convocation Chairman Robert M. Avakian stated, “We take pride in the fact that we just hosted a huge endeavor for our comrades from across the nation and they had a great time and went home with fond memories of Boston.” He added, “We are especially indebted to the untiring efforts of our convocation committee members who took responsibility, most for the first time, for the endless details of the convocation.” These were Alice Sahakian, Aram Deirmendjian, Artak Kalenjian, Dr. Charles Nargozian, David Barber, Donna Deranian, George Elanjian, George Haroutunian, Gladys and Harold Partamian, Jirair Demirchian, John Peterson, Michael Guleserian, Nelson Stepanian, Paul Boghosian, Paul Ketchoyian, Helen and Richard Cherkerzian, Roset Atinizian and Walter Nahabedian.

The 2010 Grand Convocation will be held July 7–10 in Irvine, Calif.

The Knights of Vartan, founded in 1916, is an Armenian fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the rich cultural heritage of the Armenian people, and encourages its members to assume leadership roles in cultural, educational, religious and charitable organizations and activities. The Daughters of Vartan, an affiliated organization, was formed in 1933. For more information on the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, visit www.knightsofvartan.org.