The Narge-Shavarshan Lodge of Greater Detroit received a special award. (David Medzorian photo)

Knights and Daughters of Vartan Host 101st Grand Convocation


By David Medzorian

LAS VEGAS — The Knights of Vartan’s 101st Grand Convocation and Daughters of Vartan’s 79th Grand Convocation were celebrated with more than 230 members and their families, July 10-13th, at Harrah’s Hotel and Resort.

This year’s Grand Convocation was hosted by Fresno, California’s Yeprad Lodge No. 9 and Alidz Chapter No. 8 with help from other California lodges as well as those from Chicago and Washington D.C. One purpose of the Grand Convocation was for delegates from each Lodge and Chapter to discuss and vote on proposals and measures that will affect the Knights and Daughters of Vartan in the coming year. Another was to install the new leaders of both organizations and pay tribute to the outgoing leadership. The Grand Convocation brought together Knights and Daughters of Vartan from across the country in a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Grand Commander Steven Adams (David Medzorian photo)

That spirit began for many on Wednesday, July 10 when past and present leaders of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan met in a series of meetings to discuss topics to be addressed during the next 12 months. While meetings were getting underway, the registration desk was a flurry of activity as the staff led by then Past Commander Steve Adams and his wife Past Matron Salpy Adams, welcomed guests and handed them materials they would need for their meetings.

Thursday morning was a time for workshops for both Knights and Daughters. The Daughters of Vartan heard from Past Matron Dr. Lisa Vartanian from California, who interacted with her fellow Daughters in an inspirational discussion about sisterhood. The Knights of Vartan workshop featured Southeastern Grand District Representative Past Commander Jacob Bournazian, who provided real life examples on how members could become more active participants and better leaders in their respective lodges. During the afternoon, the men and woman came together for a presentation on the plans for the Armenian Genocide Museum to be constructed in Glendale. They came together once again early that evening for a reception hosted by Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian and Grand Matron Diana Tookmanian.

Both groups got down to work on Friday, July 12, as their respective Business Sessions began at 9 a.m. Delegates representing the attending Lodges discussed and at times debated various proposals before voting on them. During the mid-day break, The Daughters of Vartan hosted a luncheon honoring Tookmanian which gave her the opportunity to thank her fellow Daughters for their dedication and support throughout her two-year term. Luncheon organizers also prepared some fun for their guests in the form of a room sized version of Monopoly which they cleverly named DOVOPOLY.

Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year, the Hon. Adrienne Krikorian, Esq. from California and Immediate Past Grand Matron Diana Tookmanian (David Medzorian photo)

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

The Knights and Daughters of Vartan appropriated financial support for certain key initiatives: the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia, the Armenian Charitable Lighthouse Foundation, Scholarships for Armenian American Students, and Scholarships for Students in Armenia attending the American University of Armenia, the Yerevan State University and the National Polytechnic University of Armenia. In addition, funds were allocated to remove the last of the land mines in Artsakh by 2020. The following projects will continue to be funded: Partnership with CASP (Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program) to benefit needy children in Tavush region; the Armenian Schools Support Project in Armenia in partnership with the World Bank; Grants from the Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian Studies; and the Annual Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York.

The fun continued well into the night as the Richard Hagopian Band got everyone onto the dance floor during KEF Night Las Vegas. The dancing followed a delicious buffet meal and the gathering of all the attending Knights and Daughters for a Grand Convocation group photograph.

The last day of the Grand Convocation began with the final business sessions for both the Knights and Daughters. The first of the Installation Ceremonies was held, installing Alice Kalustian from Gayane Lodge in San Fernando Valley as the new Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan.

Grand Matron Alice was born in Boston, grew up in Pasadena and was married to Past Commander (PC) Martin Kalustian. They moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1963 where they were active at St. Peter church. She has served as Sunday school superintendent, on parish council, ACYO sponsor, Youth Activity Council, Diocesan delegate and is still active in the church choir. She has also served on the board of the Diocese Choir Association (AACCWD).

She has been a member of Gayane Lodge since 1972. She has held almost every lodge position several times and has served as matron three different years; also as ritual and by-law advisor. She was Grand Treasurer during Past Grand Matron (PGM) Asien Surmeian’s term as Grand Matron and Grand District Representative during PGM Agnes Sahagian’s term.

She volunteers as assistant treasurer and has served on the advisory board for House of Hope- Mer Hooys, a home for disadvantaged girls in Armenia since its inception in 2008.

Her installation was followed by that of the new Grand Council: Associate Matron (Past Matron) PM Lucille Farsakian; Chaplain Armine Liberatore; Secretary PM Nancy Hammoudian; Treasurer Norma Oganessian; Mistress of Ceremonies PM Barbara Tchalikian and Sentinel PM Nadya Verabian.

Following a lunch break, the Knights and Daughters heard from Communications Liaison Gohar Palyan, who traveled from Armenia to attend the Grand Convocation. She updated members on the operations of the Communication Office in Yerevan, thanked members for their many contributions to the digital and print publication, the Avarayr newsletter and using photographs, showcased some of the projects which Lodges across the United States are supporting in Armenia. Following the Communication Liaison’s presentation, Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian presented awards and honors to lodges that have made a significant contribution to the Knights of Vartan during the past year. This year, a “Senior Knight Recognition Award” was presented to Past Commander Sam Sassounian of Los Angeles for his numerous contributions to Armenia.

The Grand Convocation group photo (David Medzorian photo)

Once the honors were bestowed, the second Installation Ceremony began, which installed Steven Adams of Yeprad Tahlij No. 9 in Fresno, California to the position of Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan. Grand Commander Steven Adams was born and raised in Fresno, CA, attending local schools and graduating from California State University Fresno with Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Physics with a minor in Mathematics. He also earned his standard teaching credential and later his administrative services credential. Grand Commander Steven taught math, chemistry, and physics in local high schools and eventually going into administration. He retired from Clovis Unified School District in 2016 as their Administrator for Assessment and Accountability. He now serves as a consultant to school districts throughout California in the areas of spatial and data analysis. Grand Commander Steve grew up in the Armenian Church and began serving on the altar at St. Paul Armenian Church in 1971 and was ordained a Deacon in the church in 1980. He has served as a delegate to the Diocesan Assembly over 20 years during that same time, also serving as an officer of the Assembly for more than half of those years. Adams joined Yeprad Lodge #9 of the Knights of Vartan in 1980, served in different positions up to a member of the Grand Council.

Adams said “The development of our spiritual, cultural and moral heritage must come from within us, there is no outside group who will preserve and grow what we have inherited. While we no longer face the imminent destruction of our people, the principles laid out by our Founding Fathers can and should still be our guiding light. We no longer face extermination, but the culture we have inherited needs to be preserved and now in the new light of independence, needs to flourish in the spirit of a new Armenia.”

Members of new Grand Council were also installed. It has seven officers, including Grand Commander, and during 101st convocation the newly selected officers were: Grand Commander PC Steven Adams, Lieutenant Grand Commander PC Kevork Oflazian, Grand Chaplain PC Raffi Karayan, Grand Treasurer PC Garo Istanboulian, Grand Recorder PC Thomas L. Adams, Grand Master of Ceremonies PC Dennis Shamlian, and Grand Sentinel PC Ara Karkazian.

The final event of the Convocation was the Grand Banquet on Saturday evening, emceed by Southeastern Grand District Representative Jacob Bournazian. Vocalist Narée Asherian led the audience in the singing of the American and Armenian National Anthems. Knight Rev. Yeghia Hairabedian from St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Fowler, California gave the invocation. The Grand Convocation Committee was introduced by its General Chairman, Past Commander Mark Der Matoian of Yeprad Lodge No. 9.

Richard Hagopian again took out his oud and with some assistance from his son on the dumbeg, performed a handful of traditional Armenian melodies. Immediate Past Grand Matron Diana Tookmanian introduced the Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year, the Hon. Adrienne Krikorian, Esq. from California. Judge Krikorian is a co-founder of House of Hope, which funds a residential educational program in Armenia for young girls from poor backgrounds. She also serves as Diocesan Council Chairman for the Western Diocese, the only female to ever hold that position.

From left, Immediate Past Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian and “Senior Knight Recognition Award” recipient Past Commander Sam Sassounian (David Medzorian photo)

Immediate Past Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian then introduced the Knights of Vartan Person of the Year, Peter Abajian of California. He is the executive director of the Paros Foundation, which raises money for humanitarian projects throughout Armenia. He also served as both director and deputy executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America. Grand Matron Alice Kalustian and Grand Commander Steve Adams wrapped up the evening’s program by thanking the Knights and Daughters for their dedication and support and for making the trip to Las Vegas. They also looked ahead to a future where the Knights and Daughters of Vartan would play an even greater role on behalf of Armenians both in the United States and in their homeland.

It was only proper that since this year’s Grand Convocation was held in Las Vegas that an Armenian priest from the neighborhood would close the program. That priest was Very Rev. Sasoon Zumrookdian of St. Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church in Las Vegas. After the prayer, the pastor urged everyone to make sure to be in church the following morning.

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: