SAN FRANCISCO — On January 27, the San Francisco Bay Area community gathered at the Vision for the Future: Advancing Higher Education in Armenia gala in support of the American University of Armenia (AUA). The event took place at the Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel in Downtown San Francisco. Through ticket sales, sponsorships, and proceeds from the silent auction, the event raised close to $1.5 million to be directed toward the Build a Better Future With AUA capital campaign, benefiting the university’s ambitious expansion plans.
Hosted by Ella Sogomonian, news anchor and reporter at KRON, the program featured musical performances by Vardan Ovsepian and Astghik Martirosyan and an impressive lineup of notable guest speakers, including Dr. Bruce Boghosian, AUA president; Dr. Yervant Zorian, chief architect and fellow at Synopsys, president of Synopsys Armenia; Rev Lebaredian, vice president of Omniverse & Simulation Technology at NVIDIA; and Michael A. Goorjian, actor, writer, and director of Amerikatsi, Armenia’s entry for the 96th Academy Awards.
The evening’s program opened with the national anthems of the United States and Armenia, as well as a prayer by Father Krikor Zakaryan. In their opening remarks, the event committee co-chairs, Valina Agbabian and Laura Dirtadian, recognized the three AUA co-founders: Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, the late Dr. Mihran Agbabian, and the late Dr. Stepan Karamardian, before a crowd that included many of their peers from the University of California community. Der Kiureghian, the only surviving co-founder, took the stage to be recognized with a token of appreciation.
Boghosian then took the stage to provide an overview of the university, as well as the reasons for the institution’s need to expand: “We now find ourselves refusing students with high SAT scores, and this is a problem because we really don’t want to exclude such talented and promising students. If students at this level cannot secure a position at AUA, they often emigrate, and we would like to do our part to prevent that. So it is time for us to expand once again.”
Following Boghosian, Zorian reflected on the success of AUA since its inception: “What AUA has given us so far is extremely impressive. The students graduate, they join the workforce, and work to give back to Armenia, in both the private and public sectors.” He continued to commend the Armenian Diaspora for its efforts, emphasizing the importance of investing in education in Armenia.
Lebaredian then took the audience on a journey, from his upbringing to his personal efforts in helping open NVIDIA’s office in Armenia. He also mentioned a recent update on the country’s approved budget to build a supercomputer, following a meeting between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and NVIDIA Co-Founder and CEO Jensen Huang. Touting the importance of artificial intelligence, especially for a small country like Armenia, Lebaredian reiterated the need to support this growth through institutions like AUA: “Education is the engine of growth and prosperity, and this is a great opportunity for Armenia to compete on the world stage, despite its size.”