From left, Nicole Nishanian, President of LA-AIWA, Joan Agajanian Quinn and Ani Kharajian, President of International Board of AIWA

AIWA Celebrates Ellis Island Medal Recipient Joan Agajanian Quinn with Gala


LOS ANGELES — It was a sellout, sold out, smashing success and still have people talking about the banquet honoring Joan Agajanian Quinn, recipient of the 2017 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Hosted by the Los Angeles Affiliate of the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA) on January 27, at Mr. C Hotel in Beverly Hills, over 250 guests filled the Rooftop Ballroom to honor Joan Agajanian Quinn in recognition of her enduring and continuing contributions to both the Armenian and American communities.


From left to right: Cindy Norian, Joan Agajanian Quinn, Kathy Terzian and Patty Samarge

The Ellis Island Honors Society sponsors the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, established in 1986, and is presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups, while exemplifying the values of the American way of life.

Nicole Nishanian, president of AIWA-LA, welcomed the guests and thanked them for participating in this well-deserved tribute. Nishanian expressed her deep appreciation for Joan’s continued service on the Executive Board of AIWA-LA and, particularly, for her dedicated service as their NGO representative for the United Nations.

Before the official program began, guests were surprised by the twin daughters of Joan, Amanda Quinn Olivar and Jennifer Quinn Gowey, and her two granddaughters, Paloma and Georgia, singing You are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine, reflecting their joy and happiness in honoring their mother and grandmother. Guests joined in singing this rousing song.

The program was skillfully lead by Andrea Fehring, Mistress of Ceremonies, first calling upon Rev. Dr. Scott Colglazier, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, for the Invocation. In his remarks, Rev. Colglazier, movingly recalled his years of friendship with Joan and her family and his pride in her distinguished philanthropic career. In addition to the art exhibits she curated at the church.

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Fehring referred to Quinn’s reputation as a visionary who, for more than 50 years has inspired more than 200 artists to print or sculpt her image. She introduced the following artists/celebrities, including Edith Bauman, Billy Al Bengston, Cheryl Bookout, Michael Chearney, Laddie John Dill, Stephen Douglas, Chris Hartunian, George Herms, Joyce Kierjczyk, Lisa Kitchen, Carla Khachatourian, Carol Tikijian, Paul Ruscha, Sharon Weiner, Gary Wood and star architect Frank Gehry.

Fehring then invited Dame Zandra Rhodes, internationally known innovative fashion designer and artist from the United Kingdom and close personal friend of Joan’s. In honor of Joan and to celebrate this occasion, she created a special limited edition of prints for each guest; the prints are titled, signed, dated and numbered. Dame Rhodes regaled the audience with tales of their long friendship, travels and adventures together.

Remarks were also made by Larry Balakian, focusing on Joan’s steadfast commitment to the California Arts Council and the art loans that the Quinns were always willing to share; and Antranik Kasbarian of the Women’s Support Center (WSC) in Yerevan, Armenia, who spoke of Joan’s involvement with the Tufenkian Foundation and US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in establishing the WSC as a safe haven for abused women and her dedication and long-term support of this project.

The entertainment extended from country music to operatic arias. Dennis Agajanian, award winning musician Guitarist, played and sang tender country songs on his guitar that touchingly moved the audience. The operatic arias were sung by Artur, famously known, as Mr. X, in a homage to our honoree and her love of the opera. Artur concluded his singing with an Armenian aria, cheerfully joined by members of the audience.

Presentations were then made in recognition of Joan Agajanian Quinn’s prominent service to the Armenian International Women’s Association, as well as a journalist, curator, arts advocate, and her leadership in the support of many global activities to benefit diverse communities. The first presentation was made by Ani L. Kharajian, International AIWA, President, who journeyed from AIWA headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, to express her congratulations “for this well-deserved accolade to a selfless contributor and a true nation builder and to participate in honoring her for the difference she has made in Armenian women’s lives.”

Presentations and acknowledgements by government officials were recognized by Senator Anthony Portantino and his aide Taline Manigoglu. They presented proclamations and Certificates of Appreciation from the California Legislature, including Senator Kevin De Leon and Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, Sheila Kuehl, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Council member, and Lily Bosse, Mayor, Beverly Hills City Council. In his remarks, Senator Portantino commended Joan for her leadership, and her passionate commitment to the arts and her consistent support of the creative talents of others.

Topics: AIWA

The program concluded with remarks by honoree Joan Agajanian Quinn, who stated “Thank you to AIWA, Chair Lily Balian and her able committee, who made this afternoon possible, and to my family and to my friends from near and far. I dedicate this afternoon to my husband Jack who was always the wind beneath my wings and continues to be my guiding angel. My mother Faye Agajanian used to bake a seven-layer cake, a delicious cake, you, each of you in this room make up the layers of that cake, all of you have been instrumental in helping me in my efforts to give back to a community that I love.”

The benediction was given by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, former Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, who spoke of his longtime relationship with Joan and her  husband Jack Quinn and noted his unwavering support and pride in all her endeavors. As a couple, they strongly believed in supporting the need to acknowledge victims of domestic violence in Armenia through the Women’s Support Center in Armenia. He spoke lovingly of Joan’s achievements and outstanding contributions which serve as an inspiration to all. He stated “I knew Jack, a noble man who was married to this wonderful woman, they worked together for the betterment of society.”

For further information regarding the Los Angeles Affiliate of the Armenian International Women’s Association please contact

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