The late Clare Gregorian, with her husband, Vartan Gregorian

Clare Russell Gregorian; Advocate for Literacy, Education


NEW YORK — Clare Russell Gregorian, a lifelong advocate and leader in education, literacy, and women’s issues, and the wife of Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian died on April 28, at home in New York City, surrounded by family, following a lengthy struggle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She was 80 years old.

Clare was known for her wit, intellect, utter devotion to her family, and complete dedication to the institutions that she served alongside Vartan Gregorian, including Carnegie Corporation’s philanthropic foundation. Clare shared the workload of her husband’s senior appointments at three other distinguished institutions: University of Pennsylvania, The New York Public Library, and Brown University. The most significant part of her civic life was Clare’s participation in high-level volunteer and leadership efforts.

Born in New York City, Clare Russell was the daughter of Faye (Rattenbury) and Henry E. Russell. She was educated at Dwight School for Girls in New Jersey and graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in history. While at Stanford, Clare met fellow student Vartan, and in 1960 they were married, becoming an inseparable couple, sharing Andrew Carnegie’s dedication to democracy and support for education and international peace. Together, they traveled extensively and lived in a number of locations abroad, including Lebanon. In the United States, they lived in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and New York. Wherever she went, she made an impact as a civic leader and indefatigable volunteer for meaningful causes and organizations.

Both formally and informally, Clare Gregorian was active in several major political campaigns, and was an advocate and leader of numerous nonprofits, such as the Providence Public Library, Trinity Repertory Theater, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCO), the Branch Council of The New York Public Library, and Literacy Partners, where she taught literacy, raised significant funds for the organization, and rose to the role of president. In recognition, Literacy Partners created the Clare R. Gregorian Volunteer of the Year Award in 2002. Clare was also awarded the First R Award from Literacy Volunteers of New York City.

Clare was known for her successful campaign to create Rhode Island Public Radio and was named an honorary chair. She continued a longstanding commitment to Planned Parenthood, which recognized her board service and fundraising efforts with the Gilman Angier Award, and established the Clare R. Gregorian Distinguished Lectureship. In 1997, the Brown University governing board awarded Clare an honorary degree for her singular contributions to the school, especially her activities on behalf of Brown parents and in building bridges with the local community.

The Gregorians returned to New York City when Vartan was appointed president of Carnegie Corporation of New York in 1997. Clare devoted herself to several new causes, including the New Victory Theater, the Guttmacher Institute, the Children of Armenia Fund, and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, while gracefully balancing many responsibilities in support of the Corporation, its staff, and the wider community.

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She is survived by her husband and their three sons: Vahé Gregorian (wife, Cindy Billhartz); Raffi (wife, Olga Palinkasev); and Dareh (wife, Maggie Haberman). She is also survived by five grandchildren: Juan, Maximus, Sophie, Miri, and Dashiell. She will be remembered by her siblings Isaac, Gillian, and Felicity. Clare was predeceased by her sister, Dorsa.

A private funeral will be held in Martha’s Vineyard. A memorial service for family and friends of Clare will be held in New York City in the coming weeks. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to causes that were dear to Clare: Rhode Island Public Radio, the branch libraries of The New York Public Library, Planned Parenthood, the Children of Armenia Fund, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, Brown University’s International Scholars Program, the New Victory Theater, and Literacy Partners.


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