CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) honored community leader and supporter Gail Talanian O’Reilly with its Distinguished Humanitarian Award on Thursday, May 19 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Despite the trepidation associated with in-person events during the era of the Covid pandemic, over 200 guests attended and reconnected. In fact, for many, it was the first time in two years that they attended such an event.
The program was well run and fast moving, which is not always the case for Armenian banquets. Peter Koutoujian, Sheriff of Middlesex County, Mass., and a former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as master of ceremonies with his usual aplomb and humor. He praised O’Reilly, with her charm, kindness, and compassion, as steady and strong in her leadership over many years.
“There are only a handful of people in my life, that when they take a position on an issue, when they support an initiative or an organization, I don’t have to think twice about it. …Moral compass — that is what Gail is for me, and I know for many of us here,” Koutoujian exclaimed to great applause. He added that Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and his own office have issued her official citations of recognition.
Assembly Life Trustee, board member, and banquet co-chair Lu Ann Ohanian welcomed guests and shared her longtime family ties to O’Reilly, as well as their devotion to Armenia, which is rooted in a 1991 Assembly trip. The experience led to O’Reilly and her husband Richard to become lifetime trustees and inspired O’Reilly to found Made in Armenia Direct (MIAD) in 2002, which hired creators of handmade crafts to preserve artistic traditions and provide jobs as these artisans sold their goods in the US.
“She has never forgotten who she is, where she came from and what she does,” said Ohanian. “She is a true Armenian, and she gives to other organizations as well.”
The accomplished Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian, Associate Justice on the Massachusetts Appeals court, focused on the theme of Armenians Americans in public service, and encouraged community members to become more involved. She highlighted the Armenian Assembly of America’s flagship Terjenian-Thomas Internship Program and how it taught her the opportunity to participate in public service in Washington, D.C. and see how government agencies work, particularly through her responsibility of studying how the Turkish government derailed the initial Hollywood film version of Franz Werfel’s novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.