Hirair Hovnanian

Philanthropist and Homebuilder Hirair Hovnanian Passes Away

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YEREVAN (Public Radio of Armenia, Hovnanian Foundation website) – Philanthropist and homebuilder Hirair Hovnanian passed away early April 9. President and founder of Hovsons, Inc., he was a founding benefactor of the Armenian Assembly of America.

He was born in 1930 in Kirkuk, Iraq. From his arrival on a freighter in 1951 to the United States, Mr. Hovnanian built one of the most successful privately held land and housing development companies in his adopted country. In recent years he totally dedicated his time and efforts to the betterment of society and to the Armenian-American community.

A 1956 Villanova University graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, Hovnanian began his career with a consulting firm constructing the Connecticut Turnpike. In 1958, after seeing a cousin’s home being built in Toms River, New Jersey, Hovnanian moved there and started building homes. He was later joined by his brothers. After several successful years working with his brothers, Hirair Hovnanian broke out on his own and formed Hovsons, Inc. in 1963.

Within the first year, Mr. Hovnanian had built 74 homes and noticed that eighty percent of his buyers were retirees. That was an epiphany that changed his future. Hovnanian is referred to in books as one of the innovators of the concept of large scale adult communities of single family homes located on individual lots. This bold move became very successful, and the communities grew and grew later becoming mixed use communities including recreational, medical and commercial facilities. Over tens of thousands of adult community homes and home sites have been built by Hovnanian. Over the last five decades, his business activities diversified to include the development and construction of health care facilities, major retail centers, office complexes, rental apartments and a 7,200 acre mining business.

In addition to his corporate business achievements, Hovnanian was involved in numerous charitable and civic activities. He contributed greatly to the Armenian community worldwide with a variety of civic, charitable, educational, and philanthropic activities. He served as Chairman of the Armenian Assembly’s Board of Trustees and was a founding member of the Hayastan All Armenian Fund. Hovnanian directly managed the construction of four housing component factories in Armenia after the 1988 earthquake, on behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America. Along with his contributions of time, his charitable contributions exceeded $40 million.

In a statement, the Armenian Assembly describes Hovnanian as “a bold, daring and caring individual, a visionary leader, the founder and benefactor of many charities, and devoted longtime Chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America’s Board” who has left “a remarkable legacy.”

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“At the helm of the Armenian Assembly of America, he helped shape non-partisan advocacy, creating an example of a united voice for Armenian Americans in Washington, D.C., and strongly believed in the unique role of American leadership in advancing democracy and human rights. He lent every measure of support within his means towards the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, including the establishment of the Armenian National Institute. He welcomed Armenian Assembly interns to his home every summer and embraced the next generation with his infectious enthusiasm for all things Armenian. Through his boundless generosity, he touched the lives of countless citizens in Armenia and Artsakh to whom he exemplified the best of the Armenian diaspora.

“We are all saddened by this great loss and remain immensely grateful to Hirair for his unparalleled legacy. He was the champion of every cause that benefited the Armenian people, and he never hesitated to lead from the front with unwavering dedication and commitment. May he rest in peace,” the statement noted.

Edmond Y. Azadian, a member of the founding executive council of the Armenian Assembly of America, recalled the following about his colleague: “Hirair Hovnanian and Steve Mugar pioneered a new political path in Armenian-American life by founding the Armenian Assembly. Hirair Hovnanian with his Armenian heart and practical mind was the propelling force of that new movement. His infectious warmth and vision inspired all of us who gathered around his charismatic personality.”

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan in a letter of condolence said, “His role in the development of Armenia and Artsakh is invaluable. He will always remain in the bright memories of our people with his patriotic activities both as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Dozens of projects have been implemented with the efforts of Mr. Hovnanian aimed at the recovery of the disaster zone, the construction of Goris-Stepanakert highway, the creation of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, the solution of numerous socio-economic problems facing our people and the protection of Armenia’s and Artsakh’s interests abroad.”

Hirair Hovnanian was aged 91. His wife Anna passed away in 2018.

He leaves behind five children: Siran, Edele, Armen, Tanya, and Leela, two son in laws, Toros and Levon, and five grandchildren.

Hirair Hovnanian’s funeral service was held on April 10 in Yerevan.

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