NEW YORK — The Ellis Island Medal of Honor has been awarded each year since 1986. It recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all the while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they embody the American Dream.
This year, Edward Avedisian was not only one of the distinguished recipients of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, but was one of a very select few invited to give his personal remarks at the ceremony. The ceremony was held on Ellis Island on Saturday, May 7.
The professional career of Avedisian spans four disciplines: a performing symphonic musician, teaching at the university level, arts administration, as well as investing and philanthropy. He retired after 30 years of service as clarinetist with the Boston Pops and 43 seasons with the Boston Ballet Orchestra. Outside of the United States, he has appeared as soloist with the Armenian State Philharmonic, the Armenian Radio and TV Orchestra and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, and was visiting artist to Boston’s sister city of Hangzhou, China, in 1998.
His success as a private investor led him to establish endowments and award grants to a number of nonprofit organizations. At the American University of Armenia (AUA) he fully funded the Center for Health Studies & Research and the Center for Business Research & Development. He was principal benefactor and chair of the construction committee (2005-2009) of the new 100,000 sq. ft. Paramaz Avedisian Building and was appointed to the Presidential Search Committee for AUA by Dr. C. Judson King, former Provost of the University of California and Chair of the AUA Board of Trustees.
Others of note include the founder and principal benefactor of both the Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian K-12 School and Community Center in Malatia-Sepastia, Armenia (a seven-building complex), and sole benefactor and chair of the AUA Oversight Committee for the Nork Marash Medical Center (bringing the Hospital up to U.S. standards in 2004-2005). Mr. Avedisian also serves as Trustee for the American University of Armenia, and as Board member of the Armenian Missionary Association of America. As a founder and sole supporter of the Friends of the American University of Armenia, his contributions include a complete renovation of the High School in Haghtanag Village (2008-2009) and the installation of a cluster of lights and trees at the Didzernaghapert Armenian Genocide Memorial. He has twice been awarded the Movses Khorentasi Medal by Armenia’s President Sargsyan for Contributions to Education, Culture, Literature and the Arts in 2008 and 2014. In the United States, key endeavors are: established the Paramaz Avedisian Pharmacy Scholarship at the University of Rhode Island, Boston University Medical School (Chobanian Professorship) and BU Tanglewood Scholarship, and an endowed chair for the Boston Ballet Orchestra.
Avedisian was born in 1937 in Pawtucket, RI, where he attended public school and was president of his graduating class. He furthered his education on a scholarship to Boston University where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music.