Dr. Seda and Vartan Keshishian addressing the guests (photo: Marc Mamigonian)

NAASR Spring Benefit Hosted by Dr. Seda and Vartan Keshishian


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) held a benefit dinner at the historic home of Dr. Seda and Vartan Keshishian on May 18. The Keshishian home, which used to belong to Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts, was recently renovated and formed an impressively elegant backdrop to the brief formal program and dinner, at which more than 80 guests were present. The fundraising was to support NAASR’s operational expenses, not the construction of its new building.

Guests on the terrace (photo: Marc Mamigonian)

Dr. Keshishian welcomed the guests to their home on behalf of her husband and herself. She declared, “We are here tonight to help NAASR in its mission, which is to promote the field of Armenian Studies and research.”

Nancy Kolligian, former chair and current vice-chair of the NAASR board, as well as member of the NAASR host committee, thanked the Keshishians for their generosity as hosts and gave the couple a present from the new lineup of Michael Aram. She acknowledged the rest of the host committee, including Yervant Chekijian, Nicole Babikian Hajjar, Sarah B. Ignatius, Marc Mamigonian and Laura Yardumian, and recognized NAASR librarian and curator Ani Babayan, as well as Vartus Varadian, who had designed the invitations for the evening.

Nancy Kolligian (photo: Aram Arkun)

Kolligian then introduced the two main speakers, Julia Hintlian and Khatchig Mouradian. Hintlian is a doctoral student of religion at Harvard University. Her main research interests are Eastern Christianity, including the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church, as well as pre-Islamic Persian religions.

Mouradian is a lecturer in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He has served as the Kazan Visiting Professor at California State University – Fresno and has taught courses at Rutgers University, Worcester State University and Stockton University. He holds a PhD in history from the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. He is the former editor of the Armenian Weekly and the current editor of the Armenian Review. He has received support from NAASR and the Knights of Vartan.

Hintlian addressed the crowd and said that for the last three years, “NAASR has played a very pivotal, a very crucial role in my academic career.” She explained that NAASR helps people make connections, and gave some examples. NAASR sponsored a conference at Harvard in which scholars from all over the world participated, allowing them to get to know each other. It also provides scholarships for travel to conferences which allow new audiences to become exposed to Armenian topics. It helped Hintlian locally too, on a community level, by providing a personal level of support.

Guests listening to the speakers (photo: Aram Arkun)

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Hintlian noted: “I think this organization brings people together to exchange ideas in order to consciously and deliberately define what it means to be Armenian today and in the future by looking at the past. When I share a seventh-century Armenian idea with a scholar of 20th century Armenia and that scholar gives me a lens through which to reinterpret the seventh century, we both walk away with a more complete, more comprehensive, and more nuanced picture of what it means to be Armenian. Together, we reinterpret, we rediscover and we recreate an Armenian identity. And that identity formation and celebration has connotations and implications that travel far behind scholarly circles and indeed far beyond Armenian circles.”

Julia Hintlian (photo: Aram Arkun)

She concluded by thanking NAASR and all those who work in it and by promising to make them all proud and pass on its worthy mission.

From left, Jirayr Balayan, Larry Welch, Alice Avanian and Yervant Chekijian (photo: Judith Saryan)

Mouradian took Hintlian’s place on the staircase and began his talk by remarking that he just returned from a conference on genocide in Thessaloniki. When viewing one of the photographs taken there, it struck him that everyone in the photograph had benefited from NAASR’s support. He added that NAASR has been supporting scholars constantly even while embarking on an ambitious building project.

From left, Dr. Armineh Mirzabegian, Ani Babayan, Carine Avakian (photo: Judith Saryan)

Much of its work is also non-financial. Many authors published in the last decade thank NAASR and its academic director Marc Mamigonian for scholarly assistance.

Mouradian personally benefited in many ways both as a doctoral student and now while teaching at Columbia. He gave as one current example that Mamigonian annually comes to New York to speak to Mouradian’s students on genocide denial. Mouradian’s own students apply and now get travel grants from NAASR. NAASR has also supported Mouradian’s own doctoral professor, Taner Akçam, thus the chain of support continues over the generations. Mouradian expressed his deep thanks for this.

Mamigonian commented after the event that “It meant a lot to hear from Julia Hintlian and Khatchig Mouradian, since supporting scholars is fundamental to what NAASR does.  The fact that our support has made a difference to them and their development is extremely gratifying.”

Topics: NAASR

Judith Saryan, NAASR Board member and treasurer said: “Every detail was beautiful from the stunning fresh flowers to the creative food. I loved how we all came together at the grand staircase to reflect on NAASR’s legacy and plans for the future.”

Khatchig Mouradian (photo: Aram Arkun)

NAASR Executive Director Sarah Ignatius first declared, “We extend heartfelt thanks to our very generous hosts for sharing their beautiful home with us in support of NAASR’s mission,” and then reflected: “A lot of people see that we are stepping into a new era at NAASR and the evening made that evident, bringing together a lot of people who are supporters but whom we do not always see at our regular programs.”

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