Mirror-Spectator Presents Gregory Adamian the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award at May Gala

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WATERTOWN, Mass. — As was announced last January, Dr. Gregory
Harry Adamian, president emeritus and chancellor of Bentley College, is being awarded the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Armenian Mirror-Spectator’s benefit gala, “Celebrating 80 Years and Beyond.” The celebration will take place on May 24.

Adamian’s life story is an example of the rapid path to success accessible in the United States to Armenian immigrants and their children.

His father came to Boston from Aintab after the Genocide, while his mother’s parents had fled Kharpert to Worcester even earlier, before his mother was born. Consequently, Adamian was born in Somerville, Mass., in 1926. His grandmother, who lived with his parents, could not speak English, therefore his first language and only language was Armenian until he began elementary school. The family moved to Brooklyn for a few years, where the family was in a less Armenian environment, but Adamian’s father was hired as a bilingual compositor by the Armenian Mirror-Spectator and Baikar and they moved to Watertown.

Adamian skipped several grades to graduate high school early and began work at the Hood Rubber Company, in whose sweatshop-like factory many Watertown Armenians found employment, including, briefly, artist Arshile Gorky. At the very end of World War II, he joined the navy, which sent him to college and officer training. He graduated from Harvard University and received a commission as an officer. He went to the Pacific for a year after the war was over.

While providing fuel to naval ships in Hong Kong, he was told that an Armenian owned the largest bar in the city. When he walked up to him and said, “Inch bes es,” or how are you, in Armenian, the man almost had a heart attack. They became so close that when Adamian left the city, the bar owner organized a farewell party which was attended by 75 Armenians living in Hong Kong at the time.

After leaving the navy, Adamian attended law school on the GI bill at Boston University and opened an office in Harvard Square. Initially, business was not good, therefore he decided to get a master’s degree in public administration from nearby Harvard and was granted a fellowship. Adamian began teaching economics (his major earlier at Harvard) at Suffolk University in 1951 on a part-time basis, and this led to a major change in his life.
Adamian’s best student turned out to work at Bentley College and asked him whether he would like to teach there. He began teaching economics part-time in 1955 while continuing his law practice. An opening in the law department led him to start teaching business law, and he eventually became chairman of the department in 1968 and in two more years he was appointed president of the college. He remained president until 1991, when he was made chancellor for life.

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He changed the nature of the college, expanding its offerings from one bachelor’s degree to a variety of business and liberal arts disciplines, as well as master’s programs in six fields. He created one of the first college centers for business ethics in the US. In a sense, Adamian prepared the college for its transformation into a university. This new status and name was recognized by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education in 2008.
Adamian was involved in the building of more than two dozen campus buildings. He increased the endowment from over $350,000 to $60 million when he retired as president. Today it is in the range of $200 million. An adept fundraiser, his Armenian contacts came in handy here. He was close friends with Detroit industrialists and philanthropists Alex Manoogian and Edward Mardigian. Adamian was on the board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) when Manoogian was its president, and was frequently invited to lecture for the AGBU. After each lecture, Manoogian would send a check for $5,000 to Bentley. Manoogian donated several hundred thousand dollars to build the president’s house at the Bentley campus. Mardigian donated part of the graduate center for $150,000.

His impact on Bentley was recognized in many ways, including the creation of the Gregory H. Adamian Professorship in Law and the Gregory Adamian Award for Teaching Excellence.

Adamian has received many honors, including the St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal granted by the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin I in 1998, the Humanity Award from Facing History and Ourselves, the 2007 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Most recently the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America has announced Adamian to be “Armenian Church Member of the Year” for 2012.

Adamian was one of the founders of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research and served for some 50 years on its board. He was president of the Council for Immigration and Resettlement of Armenians. In 1956, he testified at a Washington Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing on behalf of this organization for a bill to assist Armenian immigration into the US, together with other prominent Armenians.
Adamian was an associate trustee of the Armenian Assembly of America. He became a frequent lecturer on the Armenian Genocide for Armenian organizations, speaking nearly every April.

Adamian’s ties to the Baikar Association and the Mirror run deep. He worked while young on Saturdays to help wrap newspapers for mailing. At that time the Baikar offices were on Shawmut Avenue in Boston proper. Adamian was also the keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary banquet for the Mirror in 1982  and continues today to be a faithful reader and supporter.

And all along the way, as Adamian himself exclaimed, “I enjoyed every minute.”

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