AGBU Manoogian School Celebrates its 40th Anniversary; Unveils its New High School Building

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By Dickran Toumajan

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — On October 10, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Alex and Marie Manoogian School celebrated its 40th anniversary with a dinner/dance attended by nearly 500 graduates, community leaders, supporters of the school, former and current school board members, principals, faculty, staff and students.

The school has remained true to its mission — to offer a quality education in a safe, secure and family-oriented environment and to preserve and promote the Armenian heritage through the teaching of language, literature, history, culture, music and dance. In the mid-1990s, under the guidance of former, longtime principal, Dr. Nadya Sarafian, the school experienced a smooth transition from a private to a charter institution.

Dr. Hosep Torossian, the current principal of the Manoogian High School, and several key members of the past and present school board had a vision of seeing the school expanded into a modern two-story facility, equipped with state-of-the-art science laboratories, expansive classrooms and an auditorium. Their goal was realized thanks to the generosity and largesse of Richard Manoogian and Louise Manoogian Simone, who had the foresight to maintain the tradition and continue the legacy established by their parents, Alex and Marie Manoogian. The school has grown from 10 students and two teachers (Keghanoush Keledjian and Yvonne Korkoian, both of whom were in attendance) in 1969 to a student body of over 400 and a faculty and staff of 55. The school has been the beneficiary of two Golden  Apple Awards for academic excellence, an honor bestowed by the State of Michigan. A high percentage of Manoogian graduates continue their education in institutions of higher learning and several have distinguished themselves and their alma mater as doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen and women.

The festivities began with welcoming remarks by the Master of Ceremonies Richard Dickran Kurjian, a 1979 graduate and now treasurer of the School Board of Directors. He and his wife, Mona (a fellow alum and classmate) have sent their two sons to the school. His parents were among those who emigrated from Istanbul along with many other Armenians in the 1960s, believed in the importance of an Armenian school in the Metropolitan Detroit area and became members of the Cultural Society of Armenians from Istanbul, an organization which has consistently supported the school.

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Dr. Richard Marburger, the president of the Manoogian School Board and president emeritus of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, brought greetings from his hard-working colleagues on the board. He is married to an Armenian, considers himself an adopted Armenian, and has dedicated much of his time to the Detroit-Armenian community. He mentioned how proud he was about the opportunity for select upperclassmen on the administrator’s list to take an engineering course at Lawrence Tech. The next speaker was Torossian, who lauded the Manoogian family for their commitment to education, academic excellence and the perpetuation of the Armenian heritage. He pointed out the respect that the school commands in the community and the high esteem it enjoys as one of the most successful charter schools in Michigan. He went on to announce with pride that the class of 2010 has already garnered nearly $400,000 in scholarships to study in colleges and universities in Michigan and beyond.

Brenda L. Lawrence, mayor of Southfield, spoke eloquently about her fondness for the Armenian community, which forms a substantial portion of the city’s population and has been active in the development and growth of the economy in the area. She commented on the richness of Armenian culture, which she has witnessed on many occasions at St. John Armenian Church and at the Manoogian School.

Artoun Hamalian, director of education for the AGBU in New York, had visited the school earlier in the week and met with members of the Armenian faculty. Hamalian read a letter of praise and gratitude from Berge Setrakian, president of the AGBU Central Board of Directors, and added his own favorable impressions of the school.James Goenner, executive director of the Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University, talked about the success of the Manoogian School and how it has served as a model for other schools in the state. He presented a crystal plaque as a commemorative gift to the school.

Dyana Kezelian, principal of the Manoogian Pre-K, Elementary and Middle School, was the next speaker. As a long-time second grade teacher, later head teacher, and now principal, Kezelian has been the embodiment of the school for the past 35 years. She has seen two generations of students grow, mature and graduate. She remarked how heartwarming it is to see children of graduates now attending the school. She particularly praised the visionary leadership of the school’s founders, Alex and Marie Manoogian, and the trust and confidence shown by their children, Richard and Louise, who four years ago sponsored an almost complete renovation and face-lifting of the existing school with the addition of a pre-K wing and a new library and who have now endowed the school with a brand new high school building.Edmond Azadian, vice chairman of the School Board, was given a plaque, honoring him for his 40 years of uninterrupted and dedicated service to the school.

In his typically humble way, Richard Manoogian, accompanied by his wife, Jane, thanked all those, past and present, associated with the well-being of the school and reminisced how the students would brighten his father and mother’s day during their frequent visits. He quipped how proud they were when the school was mentioned in the media, even for snow-day announcements.

Rev. Diran Papazian, former pastor of St. John Armenian Church and a fixture at the school for all special events, offered a prayer in closing. This was followed by the official cutting of the ribbon and formal unveiling of the Manoogian High School. Guests were given tours of the school by smiling high school students in uniform attire.Guests enjoyed appetizers prepared by a small but dedicated group of teachers, parents and grandparents. The dinner was catered by Gary Reizian and his crew.

Entertainment was provided by Arthur Apkarian and his band from Montreal.

Thanks are given to the Dinner/Dance Committee, composed of Linda Darian Karibian, Ani Kasparian, Sonia Kalfayan, Dyana Kezelian, Mona Kurjian, Silva Sagherian, Sylvia Samarjian, Seran Tcholakian and Shoghig Torossian.