LEXINGTON, Mass. — Edward Avedisian, a supporter of many Armenian organizations who made news this past fall for his $100-million donation to Boston University, which led to the renaming of the medical school to the Boston University Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine, died on Wednesday, December 7. He was 85.

Avedisian had made the donation with the proviso that the medical school not be named for him, but for his close friend, Chobanian, its former dean. Chobanian, however, persisted and convinced him to put his name there too.

Boston University President Robert A. Brown called it “one of the most remarkable grants in the history of higher education” at a private signing ceremony at his residence in late August to accept the gift and formalize the school’s name change.

The $100-million gift will be divided three ways: $50 million to support scholarships for medical students, $25 million to support endowed professorships and $25 million to the Avedisian Fund for Excellence to keep the school at the forefront of research and teaching.

Interviewed in October, Avedisian sounded frail yet as sharp as ever, stressing the need for the wealthy to extend a helping hand. “My work is finished and that’s OK. I’ve done as much as I could,” he said.

Edward Avedisian (left) (CFA ’59 ’61) and Aram Chobanian celebrate at the BU School of Medicine Naming Ceremony on September 29, 2022.
Photo by Jackie Ricciardi for Boston University

One of the many organization to which he had donated through the years, the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), on whose board he served, and for which he was  principal benefactor of AMAA’s Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian School and Community Center, announced his passing.

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“Mr. Ed Avedisian was a humble man with a very generous heart and an immense love for Armenia and Armenian heritage. His legacy will remain alive for all of us and especially the generations of students at the Avedisian School in Yerevan. Truly, this is a big loss for the Armenian nation, but we hope that his life will be an example for others to follow.” reflects AMAA Board of Directors President Dr. Nazareth Darakjian.

The son of Armenian Genocide survivors, Edward Avedisian was born in 1937 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He grew up in an immigrant neighborhood where he attended public school and served as president of his graduating class. He furthered his education on a scholarship to Boston University where he earned his BM and MM degrees.

Avedisian’s professional career spanned four disciplines: a performing symphonic musician, a university professor, an arts administrator, a consummate investor, and philanthropist.

President of Carnegie Corporation Vartan Gregorian, Avedisian School Benefactors Edward and Pamela Avedisian, and Avedisian School Principal Melanya Geghamyan

For 35 years Avedisian was a member of the Boston Pops and 43 seasons with the Boston Ballet Orchestra, as a clarinetist. He has also appeared outside the United States as soloist with the Armenian State Philharmonic, the Armenian Radio and TV Orchestra, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia. He was also a visiting artist to Boston’s sister city of Hangzhou, China.

In 1998 Edward and Pamela Avedisian founded the Avedisian School in the Malatia-Sepastia district of Yerevan, operated by the AMAA, as a tuition-free Kindergarten for students from economically disadvantaged families. The current K-12 grade school building, which was officially opened on September 1, 2014, is the first building in the Republic of Armenia to achieve a Silver LEED Certification and also awarded the LEED Earth Designation. The School was the dream of Mr. Avedisian to honor his Genocide survivor parents, Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian, who had placed an extremely high value on education throughout their lives.  It is a living legacy to educate the next generations in an environment which fosters the love of learning through love, respect, service, integrity and diligence.

His philanthropy was vast and deep rooted, as it served countries located on both sides of the Atlantic. His many contributions to Armenia include philanthropic investments to the American University of Armenia, the Tsitsernakabert Genocide Memorial and the Nork Marash Children’s Cardiac Hospital, as well as the complete renovation of a school in the Haghtanag Village.

Avedisian was twice awarded the Movses Khorenatsi Medal by President Serzh Sargsyan.

In the United States, his outstanding commitment of service and philanthropy was recognized in 2016 when he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2017, a gift was made to the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy (URI), in honor of his late brother Paramaz Avedisian, which embodied the best of scholarship and fellowship. Recognizing Edward’s accomplishments and civic-minded values, URI bestowed him with an Honorary Doctorate Degree in 2019.

Edward Avedisian (photo Ken Martin)

Avedisian was also a Board Member of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), where he and Pamela were the principal benefactors of the newly constructed NAASR headquarters, which opened in 2019 and named, not after themselves, but after one of the most distinguished intellectuals in the world, Vartan Gregorian. In January 2022, Rhode Island College was the recipient of a donation in honor of Edward’s sister, Zvart Onanian, naming the College of Nursing in her honor. A transformative gift was made in September 2022 to Boston University (BU) to support scholarships, endowed faculty chairs, and cutting-edge research and teaching. With this donation, the medical school was renamed “The Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine.” The donations mentioned are not comprehensive, but a testament to Edward’s vision and dedication to giving back, making quality education accessible, and leaving the world a better place for future generations.

A longtime resident of Lexington, Avedisian is survived by his wife, Pamela Wood Avedisian, his sister, Zvart Onanian, his brother, Paul Avedisian, and extended family. Edward is predeceased by his parents, Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian, and his brother, Paramaz Avedisian. A memorial is being planned for Spring 2023.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Armenian Missionary Association of America toward the Avedisian School Endowment Fund.

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