A group of Knights and Daughters at the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Heritage Park in Boston - July 5th (David Medzorian photo)

Knights and Daughters of Vartan Host Grand Convocation in Boston

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By David Medzorian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BOSTON — The Knights and Daughters of Vartan held its Grand Convocation in Boston during the first week of July. Members from Lodges and Otyags across the United States were hosted this year by Ararat Lodge No. 1 and Arpie Otyag No. 9.

The slogan for this year’s gathering was “Return to Ararat” because Ararat Lodge was the Knights of Vartan’s first Tahlij, founded on July 4, 1916.

Attendees at a reception for Knights and Daughters hosted by Avak Sbarabed Hunan Arshakian and Avak Dirouhie Goria Korkoian – July 6th. (David Medzorian photo)

The home for the 105th Avak Tahlij and the 83rd Grand Convocation was the Westin Waltham Boston Hotel. On Wednesday, July 5, a group of Knights and Daughters and some spouses and friends saw some of the city’s famous sites up close as they enjoyed a Boston Harbor Cruise. The ninety-minute excursion took them past landmarks such as the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), the Italian North End and The Old North Church, The Bunker Hill Monument, and Spectacle Island, which Boston’s Big Dig Project transformed. The group also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Heritage Park and walked the labyrinth surrounding a small water fountain. Most of the group enjoyed an outdoor dinner at Legal Seafood before returning to the hotel. The first official day of the Grand Convocation began with a workshop led by the leaders of the Call-to-Action Committee. Grand Vice-Commander Levon Thorose joined Former Commanders Jake Bournazian and Garry Javizian in updating the Knights and Daughters of Vartan on efforts to help the 120-thousand Armenians who are living in Artsakh amidst a blockade by Azerbaijan that is now in its seventh month. To help publicize the plight of those in Artsakh and to seek international support, the Call-to-Action Committee commissioned two informational videos, which were shown to the Knights and Daughters on two occasions during the Grand Convocation.

Nakhgin Dirouhie Eva Medzorian of Arpie Otyag, The 2023 Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year. (David Watts Jr. photo)

The second workshop of the day, moderated by New England Grand District Representative Bob Avakian, was an interactive discussion focusing on efforts to recruit new members into the Knights of Vartan.

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The Grand Convocation’s first social event was a reception Thursday evening in the hotel’s lounge, hosted by Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian and Grand Chairwoman Gloria Korkoian.

Avak Sbarabed Hunan Arshakian presenting the Knights of Vartan Man of the Year Award to Nakhgin Sbarabed Hrant Gulian of Mamigonian Lodge No. 12, Brooklyn, NY. on behalf of Professor Vartan Abdo, Founder, and Director of the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey, who could not attend. (David Watts Jr. photo)

The Knights and Daughters of Vartan got to business on Friday morning with official proceedings in their meeting rooms. In separate gatherings, delegates from each organization discussed and voted on measures and appropriations that would affect the Knights and Daughters of Vartan and the people they serve in the year ahead. It was not all business for members of The Daughters of Vartan, who at midday on Friday held their annual luncheon, featuring an 80th birthday celebration for Grand Chairwoman Gloria Korkoian. The ladies of Arpie Otyag in Boston and Tzouig Otyag in Merrimack Valley presented Korkoian with a large white birthday cake and an even larger birthday card signed by everyone at the gathering. Among those was Knights of Vartan Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian, who stopped by briefly to offer birthday greetings and to thank his friend for her hard work and dedication in leading the Daughters of Vartan during the last two years.

Knights and Daughters of Vartan Liaison Gohar Palyan, who traveled from Yerevan to be here, gives a presentation on our ongoing projects in Armenia and shows us the new interactive Knights and Daughters of Vartan website – July 8th (David Medzorian photo)

The party, however, wasn’t over yet. In her thank you remarks to her sisters in the Daughters of Vartan, Korkoian quoted the lyrics to the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. They began with the words, “I am unwritten. Can’t read my mind. I am undefined. I’m just beginning. The pen’s in my hand. The ending unplanned.” Unknown to the Grand Chairwoman, as she was reciting the lyrics, someone found a recording of the song and began playing it when she finished. Within moments, the function room became a dance floor as the Daughters got up from their seats and moved to the beat of the music.

The dancing would continue that night following the afternoon meetings. Vocalist Elie Berberian from Montreal and his band serenaded the gathered. He then picked up the tempo, and within moments, the dance floor, bathed in colored lights, was filled from one end to the other. It would stay that way for the rest of the evening.

The final day of the Grand Convocation was one of ceremony and festivity. Following the morning meetings, The Knights of Vartan were invited to join the Daughters and attend the Installation of the incoming Grand Chairwoman, Nancy Berberian Thompson, and her council. The afternoon session began with a presentation by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan Liaison Gohar Palyan, who had traveled from Yerevan for the occasion. Using visuals, she updated the membership of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan on the progress of some of their ongoing humanitarian projects in Armenia. She also gave the audience a glimpse and answered questions about the new interactive website.

The Daughters of Vartan attend the “Daughter’s Luncheon on Friday, July 7th, in honor of Avak Dirouhie Gloria Korkoian’s 80th Birthday. (David Medzorian photo)

The official activities concluded with installing the new Grand Council. That evening, the 2023 Grand Convocation ended with a gala banquet in the Eden Vale Ballroom. Once the dignitaries at the head table were seated, Master of Ceremonies David Medzorian introduced vocalist Alla Petrosyan, who sang the American and Armenian national anthems and two ballads later in the program. Following the invocation by Former Commander Rev. Stephan Baljian of Arakadz Lodge, Grand Convocation Committee Chairman Nelson Stepanian introduced those at the head table. He then thanked the members who had helped plan this year’s gathering.

The tributes began with Former Grand Chairwoman Gloria Korkoian introducing this year’s Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year, Eva Medzorian, the former Chairwoman or Dirouhie of Arpie Otyag No. 9 in Boston. In her acceptance speech, read by her daughter, Ruth Medzorian Falletti of Arpie Otyag, Medzorian described herself as a lifelong activist whose appreciation of her Armenian heritage began very early. She recalled how, during a visit to Armenia shortly after the 1988 earthquake, she was impressed by the women she met and their bravery and desire to contribute more to their communities. These conversations inspired Eva Medzorian to form, with the help of two friends, the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA). She also praised her sisters in the Daughters of Vartan. Finally, Medzorian sang one of her favorite ballads, Hayasdan, to a standing ovation.

David Medzorian then read an acceptance letter from the Knights of Vartan Man of the Year, Prof. Vartan Abdo, the founder and director of the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey. On Abdo’s behalf, Arshakian presented the Man of the Year Award to Former Commander Hrant Gulian of Mamigonian Lodge No. 12 in Brooklyn, New York.

Former Mamigonian Lodge Commander Tigran Sahakyan was honored with the St. Vartan Mamigonian Knight of the Year Award. As he was not present to receive his honor, Sahakyan’s award was accepted on his behalf by Mid-Atlantic Grand District Representative and Former Commander Dr. Edward Sanossian.

Gloria Korkoian introduced her successor, Grand Chairwoman Nancy Berberian Thompson, who was installed in a ceremony earlier that day. After acknowledging her Grand Council, the new Grand Chairwoman promised to continue working on behalf of the Armenians of Artsakh. She also urged the Daughters of Vartan to support Armenian endeavors in the US, such as the Armenian-American Museum in Glendale, Armenian Studies Programs at various universities, and scholarship programs.

Avak Dirouhie Nancy Berberian Thompson(David Watts Jr. photo)

Arshakian also acknowledged his team. He then described the plight of the Armenians now in Artsakh as a people hanging by a thread with no end date for their suffering. He said, “1915 is happening right now in Artsakh. It is a real ongoing genocide and pure ethnic cleansing.” He urged all Knights and Daughters of Vartan to raise awareness of Armenians’ plight in Artsakh and contact their lawmakers and other persons of influence. He also encouraged the audience to support the work of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan Call-to-Action Committee. He said that Armenians worldwide need to put aside political and religious differences and work together.

The Grand Convocation Banquet concluded with a prayer by Rev. Vasken Kouzouian of Ararat Lodge in Boston.

(David Medzorian is an asbed and a member of Ararat Lodge No. 1, Boston.)

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