Dr. Vartan Gregorian, left, and benefactor Ed Avedisian in the new NAASR building (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

NAASR Unveils New Headquarters

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BELMONT, Mass. — On the blustery afternoon of Friday, November 1, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) finally unveiled its airy and sparkly new building, erected on the site of its previous center.

Hundreds of well-wishers and supporters gathered outside for the opening program, which included comments from the person for whom the building is named, Dr. Vartan Gregorian.

Yervant Chekijian, chairman of the NAASR board, got the program started. He highlighted some of the building’s new features, including the main door, crafted by an artisan in Armenia.

NAASR Executive Director Sarah Ignatius speaks with Yervant Chekijian standing behind her. (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

Ara Krafian, chairman and president of the firm SMMA, which provided the architectural and engineering services for the new building, spoke next. The new 15,000-square-foot building, he said, came about as a result of the “courageous Board of Trustees and relentless Yervant,” adding special thanks to Executive Director Sarah Ignatius and Director of Academic Affairs Marc Mamigonian.

The new building, he said, is much more efficient, larger and full of natural light.

In addition, the floor-to-ceiling glass walls on the third floor have etchings of traditional Armenian design.

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Ignatius expressed her delight that the day of the unveiling had finally arrived. “I am incredibly proud to be here. All of you are part of this building,” she said.

The NAASR building from the outside (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

She paid special tribute to the man for whom the building is named, Dr. Vartan Gregorian, and expressed her joy that the building would be a place for the community.

“They can come and study and have meetings with colleagues,” she said.

During a tour of the building she added that the building will have wi-fi hotspots

for people to come in and use the building for study purposes.

Of course, the building will host the Mardigian Library, one of the top five Armenian libraries open to the public in the diaspora, with 40,000 books and rare periodicals dating to the 1800s, as well as unique personal archives of prominent scholars, early Armenian-Americans, and religious leaders, including Father Krikor Guerguerian’s archive of rare Ottoman documents.

These books and documents will not be allowed out of the building but can be accessed by scholars on site.

The building also features a modern auditorium seating 155.

Michael Aram surrounded by his family, including husband Aret Tikiryan and their two children, Anabel and Thadeus, and Aram’s parents, Anita and John Wolohojian. They are joined by NAASR’s Ani Babaian. (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

As the wind was picking up and the sun was setting, Gregorian spoke briefly, joking that he did not want to be responsible for the assembled catching pneumonia. He praised Ed and Pamela Avedisian, who had provided the majority funds for the new building and asked that it be named for Gregorian. He said he had just come back from Armenia, where he had visited the school the Avedisians are supporting for grades 4-12, in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Yerevan. All expenses are paid for the students and in turn, those students are excelling.

“Ed and Pam are my heroes,” he said.

He praised other “heroes,” Carolyn Mugar of the Armenia Tree Project and his fellow Aurora Prize founders, Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan and their UWC Dilijan College, which is for grades 11 and 12, and has students from 80 countries.

He encouraged greater investment in Armenia. “We have invested all over the world except Armenia,” he said.

Gregorian noted it was especially appropriate that in the 400 years since Armenians have been in the US, they are now fully establishing themselves and becoming truly part of the fabric of the greater community.

(A full interview with Vartan Gregorian will appear in next week’s issue.)

Nancy Kolligian unveils a memorial dedicated to NAASR founder Manoong Young (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

Designer and sculptor Michael Aram spoke next, explaining the meaning behind his intricate statue placed outside the new building. He added that he used the “idea of eternity and how it related to NAASR’s mission.”

Aram said  that he used the traditional Armenian Arevakhach eternity design, along with laurel leaves, peacocks and circles in the sculpture, in the center of which is a round box that serves as a “personal time capsule,” with loving notes to and from his children. “It is my realization that love is eternal,” he concluded.

Several members of the clergy offered prayers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Jack Medzorian and Van Aroyan, the oldest members of the NAASR board, as well as the children and nieces and nephews of Gregorian and Aram.

Several guides offered tours of the building. The three-story building has many long windows offering natural light as well as glass walls. In addition, a room will feature the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Archives, which include testimonies of Armenian Genocide survivors.

From left, David Ignatius, and his father, Paul Ignatius, with Anthony Barsamian and Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Varujan Nersesyan (Jirair Hovsepian photo)

According to Ignatius, the rare books will move to the building on November 18 and the staff will be fully moved in by the end of November. Since the demolition of the previous building, NAASR staff have used the Watertown offices of the AGBU.

“I have looked at architectural renderings for two years but to actually see it come to life was overwhelming. I was ecstatic. It is almost unreal,” Ignatius said after the event.

A light reception was held with food from anoush’ella.

 

 

 

 

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