YEREVAN, Armenia — Linda Shahinian, along with her husband, Herb Schiff, was on a visit to Armenia in May 2014 when the long-retired couple met AUA Acopian Center for the Environment’s (ACE) Alen Amirkhanian at a dinner party. Amirkhanian invited Shahinian and Schiff to visit AUA and the Center, which promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach.
ACE was founded in 1992 by Sarkis Acopian as a center overseeing research and academic programs. From the very beginning, it was the Center’s aim to protect Armenia’s biodiversity and natural resources through research, education, and public involvement.
“The Center is such a valuable asset for Armenia. I love the idea that there is a center such as ACE at AUA that studies Armenia’s environment, and how to protect it and keep it healthy. This is so important for ecotourism too,” the energetic Shahinian continued, alluding to a project that she was involved in at the Center.
“That’s when we were impressed. Alen is a very bright — very bright — guy,” Shahinian recounted during an interview that her husband also took part in. “Alen is very impressive,” Schiff chimed in. The center’s activities, based on its interests in environmental policy, in sustainable natural resource management, on built environment and the natural environment, and on information technology and the natural environment, appealed to Shahinian and Schiff. That year, they decided to donate towards the Center’s work.
The Center’s appeal was such that Shahinian decided to join Amirkhanian’s team as a volunteer. She returned with her husband to Armenia in September 2015 to spend six weeks at AUA’s ACE.
But Shahinian did not jump into this opportunity right away. There were some important details to attend to, such as what Schiff would be doing while Shahinian volunteered at ACE. The equally energetic Schiff wanted to keep busy as well. “I had to find something to do in order to stay out of trouble,” he added mischievously. Being a man of many interests, among them archeology, with the assistance of the Armenian Volunteer Corps, he was able to join an archeological dig at Karmir Blur, where an Urartian burial site was recently discovered and is being actively excavated and studied.