NEW YORK — On June 5, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative held an Aurora Dialogues Online event titled “Vartan Gregorian. The Aurora Co-Founder,” focused on Vartan Gregorian’s extraordinary life as humanitarian, educator and mentor. The tribute was moderated by David Ignatius, associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post, with speakers including Aurora Co-Founders, Aurora Prize Selection Committee members and Aurora Prize Laureates. The viewers also had a chance to watch several videos featuring Vartan Gregorian over the years and hear him speak about the issues closest to his heart.
To kick-off the event, David Ignatius greeted all participants and the audience. “[We are here] to pay tribute to the late Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Co-Founder and my dear friend, the incomparable Vartan Gregorian, who was an inspiration to us all and a man whose intellectual and moral legacy will live on and influence generations of thinkers and scholars,” said Ignatius, turning the floor over to Aurora Co-Founder Noubar Afeyan.
Afeyan, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, set the tone for the tribute: “Over many years that I knew Vartan, I always felt he was looking over my shoulder and over the shoulder of all those he knew. What’s even more impressive though is that through his life’s work Vartan also looked over the shoulders of many thousands, if not millions more, most of whom he didn’t know.”
It was hard for Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, to remain composed and not overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke about Gregorian. “He was authentic, he was selfless, he was generous to many, including me. He was poetic, he was a romantic, he was a legend. Also, his wit, his infectious smile and the twinkle in his eyes made him a superb member [of the Selection Committee]. I’ve learned a lot, watching him in action for a number of years,” said Darzi.
One of the people who have experienced Vartan’s life-changing touch was Dr. Tom Catena, Chair of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, 2017 Aurora Prize Laureate and Medical Director of Mother of Mercy Hospital, Nuba Mountains: “He was the guy who grew up in different cultures, around people of different religions and different beliefs. And I think this really made him the man he was. He was a guy who could really get along with anybody and I think everybody felt that he was their friend.”
This sentiment was echoed by Marguerite Barankitse, 2016 Aurora Prize Laureate and Founder of Maison Shalom, who said: “He was a symbol of hope, a symbol of love, of humility, of compassion. He was a holy man. He’s a saint. He has achieved what is written in the Holy Bible. He changed the world into a paradise.”