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.