By Nubar Dorian
The wars, wounds, suffering and strife followed by the Armenian Genocide forced many millions and more survivors to seek food and shelter in other lands. The US has been the ideal refuge and Armenians were able to reach these blessed shores to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. Though helpless and friendless, they were able to prove their noble character, studiousness and determination to become ideal citizens in this blessed land. When they raised their voices to sing God Bless America, theirs is the loudest and their plea to God made with every fiber of their being.
Such an American Armenian is Richard Hekemian of New Jersey, a gentle man who is highly successful in his field, an outstanding philanthropist and humble to the extreme. He is chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Hekemian & Company, Inc., located in the prestigious Hekemian Building. He is also the chairman and CEO of First Real Estate Trust, a publicly-traded real estate company conceived by Sam Hekemian, his late father. This company, I believe, has more Armenian shareholders than any other publicly-traded company, just like his son, was an exemplary American citizen, always proud of being Armenian and helping all Armenian causes.
One of Robert’s big passions has been education, which led him to Bergen Community College of New Jersey to try to help students who were unable to meet the high cost of higher education. This activity was so close to his heart that he gave a great deal of time, talent and funds in helping this community college become one of the best two-year colleges in New Jersey, with more than 15,000 students per semester. He was elected to serve as the director of the college’s Board of Directors from 1988 to 1993 and thereafter continues to serve as director emeritus. Last year the foundation recognized Robert’s “Meritorious Service” by presenting him the annual Medallion Award at a dinner attended by more than 400 Who’s Who in New Jersey names in education, politics, business, federal and state officials.
The New York and New Jersey Armenian community is indeed extremely proud to see the “Hekemian” name emblazoned on a wing at Hackensack University Medical Center. He continues to give substantially and in a meaningful way is involved in this top university in New Jersey which is fifth in the US. No wonder this famous university which helps millions of patients each year, has recognized Robert’s leadership and elected him to be a member of the Board of Governors. He continues to serve in this prestigious position. It really is heartwarming and delightful to realize that a son of an Armenian has the honor to be a board member of this most prestigious hospital to help heal the sick, wounded, poor and the helpless.
Robert established the Robert and Mary Jane Hekemian Foundation some 20 years ago and has been actively contributing to many important Armenian and American projects and equally important, participating as well in their activities. In addition, he is a member of the board of directors of many famous banks and real estate companies.