CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Armenian General Benevolent Union New England (AGBU NE) District celebrated its 110th anniversary on Saturday, June 2, with a banquet at the Samberg Conference Center at MIT. The unbelievable view of Boston thanks to the great weather served as the background for a sell-out event with 300 people. It raised $1.22 million, of which $1 million was from the Cpl. Paul Marsoubian Amvets Post 41 for AGBU Scholarships. Dr. Noubar Afeyan and Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian were honored with the AGBU NE District’s Global Excellence Awards for 2018, and an important new Boston AGBU internship program was announced.
The attendance of a large number of students and AGBU Young Professionals (YPs) reflected the commitment of the New England District on innovative programming for both demographic groups, including career advancement through mentoring dinners and acting as an incubator for entrepreneurship. The importance of this event for AGBU was highlighted by the presence not only of AGBU President Berge Setrakian but of almost every member of the Central Board of Directors.
After Boston-area Armenian clergy pronounced their blessing, and a brief video of the history of the AGBU in the Boston area was screened, guests were welcomed by Lindsey Hagopian and Houry Youssofian, the AGBU New England 110 Gala Committee co-chairs. Youssofian exclaimed that the evening was really a reunion of family and friends. She spoke about the intense level of her own family’s commitment to AGBU and its goals when they emigrated to Boston. Hagopian also spoke about her personal connections to AGBU, which became profound when she chaired the YPs in New York. She introduced Lia Oganesyan, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.
Oganesyan is an entrepreneur-in-residence at TED, where she gave the first TED Talk on virtual reality. A former music industry professional who has toured with Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones and worked with the Clinton Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies on reducing carbon emissions, Oganesyan is a founding partner of Protocol Investments and has served as chairwoman of the Ewing’s Sarcoma Research Foundation.
Oganesyan spoke about the magic of community. She related that her grandfather used to repeat the Armenian saying, “Rise up, raise up,” but proposed changing it to “Raise up, rise up,” because by raising up others, you are also carving out your own path. Her great-grandfather documented her family’s history, founding orphanages in Greece with the help of the AGBU and the Danish government. His tool to preserve the past was his pen, while Oganesyan’s is virtual reality.
She enjoined the crowd to continue to document and publish Armenian history. AGBU, she said, preserves our traditions, languages and culture, in order to preserve the Armenian nation.