A Profile: Nazar Nazarian at 90


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Someone should conduct scientific research to find out the secret of the longevity of benefactors. At least, it seems that Armenian benefactors live longer than the average person. To mention just a few, there are Calouste Gulbenkian, Arshag Dickranian, Haik Kavookjian, Alex Manoogian and Kirk Kerkorian, who was sharp and alert to the end of his life, at age 98.

On August 2, benefactor Nazar Nazarian will celebrate his 90th birthday, surrounded by family and friends. Armenians around the globe will rejoice with the Nazarian family and wish him to beat the record of all the above benefactors, and live a full century and beyond.

Until that research is conducted, I will propose my unscientific and subjective observation of this phenomenon.

Having worked closely over a quarter of a century with one of those benefactors, namely Alex Manoogian, I can deduce that the secret of that longevity is in the thrill that the benefactors enjoy when they witness that their hard-earned money is serving a meaningful purpose: seeing a church dome rising into the sky, listening to Armenian children dancing and singing in their native tongue under the roof of an Armenian school, receiving a literary masterpiece and watching the tears dry in the eyes of a destitute refugee.

This kind of contentment must stimulate some physical elements in the human body to preserve health and extend life.

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When I hear Nazar Nazarian’s spontaneous, sincere, warm and reassuring voice, I can place him within the context of his family tradition. The Nazarians have a long history of munificence and Nazar today is the torchbearer of that tradition.

I remember his father, Levon Effendi, in his store in Beirut, sitting behind a high desk, commanding over the workers and customers. As students of the AGBU schools there, sometimes our principal would send us to the Nazarian store to receive our scholarship checks. Levon Effendi used to conduct AGBU business as if he were conducting his own business. That stern and commanding boss would hand our scholarships with a kind smile, always wishing us a successful future.

While at the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoukian High School, our exciting moments took place at Armenian Christmas Eve (Khetoum) when our graduating class would sing Christmas carols outside the doors of the AGBU families. I remember our favorite families were the Nazarians and the Demirdjians, where not only we received generous gifts for our charitable projects, but we enjoyed their lavish dessert tables. No matter how awkward our singing sounded, we always received heaping amounts of praise from our hosts.

We had heard at that time that Nazar had left for the US with a degree in pharmacy, while his older brothers, Garbis and Noubar, worked with their father.

But when I arrived at these shores, I did not see a man in the pharmacist’s white coat; instead I saw a successful businessman and a prominent benefactor.

Garbis Nazarian was fond of writers and intellectuals. The writers did not need to appeal to him to publish their books. He used to invite them to his house or an upscale restaurant, wined and dined them and handed them the sum needed to publish their book, with an appreciative smile.

The Nazarians were a principled family. They were — and are — staunch believers in the AGBU and Holy Echmiadzin. Throughout the turmoil of the church division, they were steadfast supporters of the primacy of Holy Echmiadzin, despite the dangers and threats. Noubar Nazarian even survived a physical assault during the turmoil.

Now that Levon Effendi, Digin Satenig, Garbis and Noubar are gone, the Nazarian family’s mission is on Nazar’s shoulders. He stands tall when the call comes form the AGBU or Echmiadzin.

While continuing his contributions in the diaspora, he has extended a helping hand to Armenia.

Artemis Nazarian complements her husband in her commitment to worthy causes and the future of Armenia. I have known her also in another capacity as she happens to be the niece of Charlie Sulahian, my mentor.

When I was invited to serve at the Baikar Association and move to Boston, Charlie was our boss, the chairman of the ADL District Committee. He was a visionary with an interesting quirk: northing seemed impossible to him. He embarked upon major projects and he achieved them successfully. He ushered my early steps in this country and I always remember him fondly.

When I came to know Artemis, I found many of Charlie’s traits in her, as she was warm, patriotic, spontaneous and always caring.

The Nazarians’ monumental charity in Armenia is symbolized in the construction of the Echmiadzin Chancellery, Surp Krikor Lusavorich Cathedral, and more recently, the AGBU Center in the heart of Yerevan.

As Nazar celebrates his 90th birthday, all his family members are with him, including the deceased who are probably looking over him proudly. But above all, his family traditions and values will be with him.

I will not presume by making any statements on his behalf. But if there is a lesson to be learned, it is finding that the secret of his longevity is to give, then offer help to your community and mankind.



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