A scene from the 2021 Beirut Vahan Tekeyan School graduation dedicated to the memory of Garabed Babahekian

Graduation Ceremonies at Beirut’s Vahan Tekeyan School Dedicated to the Memory of ADL Leader Garabed Babahekian


BEIRUT — The 2020-21 school year was made difficult due to the combination of the novel coronavirus and the socioeconomic crisis in Lebanon. All schools in Lebanon, including the Vahan Tekeyan School, had to switch to long-distance learning from home for students to assure the health of both students and staff. The August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut made life even more difficult. However, the school year ends with hopes of starting in the fall with peace in the country and renovated classrooms and improved health conditions.

Graduation ceremonies took place at the Tekeyan School on Saturday, July 3. Diplomas were distributed in the presence of the trustees of the school and their chairman Dr. Hovig Vartanian, the daughters of the recently deceased Armenian Democratic Liberal Party leader Garabed Babahekian — Jenny Babahekian and Sosi Babahekian Kalinjian — Chairman Hagop Kasarjian and board members of the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Founders Body, teachers, and parents of the graduating students. The ceremony was broadcast live on the school’s Facebook page.

Principal Galina Shememian Najarian

After the performance of the anthems of Lebanon, Armenia and the school, a moment of silence was observed for those connected to the school who passed away due to the coronavirus, including one of the founders of the Vahan Tekeyan Middle School of Beirut, Garabed Babahekian, member of the school board Dr. Vazken Zhamgochian, and longtime teacher Mrs. Siroun Shalvarjian.

Armenology teacher Avedis Diban greeted all present in the name of the staff and spoke about the tribulations of the country and the people, in the midst of which the staff worked to keep the educational mission of the school going primarily via the Internet. He remarked that the school has prepared a rich harvest imbued with Armenian national values who will serve the cause of the preservation of Armenian identity throughout the diaspora. Furthermore, in the development of the Armenian homeland, education and study have fundamental roles to play.

Young students then performed a dance with the young Lidushig of Armenia singing. Students presented roses to their parents, and then speeches of farewell were given by other students. Patil Papazian of the sixth grade gave a speech in English, while Mariam Hazh Ali spoke on behalf of the third grade of the middle school in Armenian.

Principal Galina Shememian Najarian spoke about the humble and faithful family man and Armenian public figure that Garabed Babahekian was as well as his role as former chairman of the TCA Founders Body. For many years he served the school selflessly as a member of its board of trustees. His status as an intellectual leader of the Armenians gave this support added value, and he continues to serve as a worthy example for the new generation of school graduates to follow in service to the Armenian people and homeland, the principal concluded.

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After speaking about the difficulties students faced due to the coronavirus, the principal positively evaluated the role the school has played in the Lebanese-Armenian community over the last 70 years and called for all to continue to support it in its mission in the forthcoming years.

From left, Principal Galina Shememian Najarian, Hagop Kasarjian, Jenny Babahekian, Knar Kupelian, Dr. Hovig Vartanian

She thanked in particular those who helped the school flourish, including the TCA Founders Body and the Central Board of the TCA of the United States and Canada. She stated in particular that the latter’s generous donation and limitless care helped the school endure the recent economic crisis. She similarly thanked Mr. and Mrs. Sam and Sylva Simonian for their unstinting philanthropy.

The principal uttered words of encouragement to the new graduates and good wishes to the beloved secretary Knar Kupelian, who was moving with her family to Armenia after 19 years of working at the school. She expressed similar wishes for teacher Shake Domburian and chief guard Hagop Sakabedoyan, who in a few months will leave Lebanon.

At the end of her talk, Shememian Najarian sadly noted that after 19 years working at the school, including the last 10 years as principal, this would be her final farewell, as she and her family were emigrating from Lebanon due to the difficult conditions there in recent years. She promised nonetheless to remain ready to help her beloved school.

Ani Lachinian-Magarian spoke afterwards as secretary of the TCA Founders Body and praised the efforts of the entire staff, especially that of the departing principal, on whom she bestowed a special plaque from the Founders Body together with Chairman Hagop Kasarjian and school board chair Dr. Vartanian.

Young children dance at the graduation.

After this ceremony, Lachinian-Magarian introduced the new principal, the young and dedicated teacher Sevana Semerjian-Darakjian.

The various dignitaries present then joined in the handing out of diplomas and the distribution of awards. Bouquets of flowers were given to the departing Mrs. Kupelian, Mrs. Domburian and Mr. Sakabedoyan in recognition of their years of service.


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