From left, Hrant Vartzbedian, Yervant Demirjian, Sinan Sinanian, Berge Setrakian, Panos Titizian, Sam Simonian, Nelly Kazman, Kevork Zoryan, Gohar Stambolyan

AGBU Pays Tribute to Panos Titizian’s Lifetime of Leadership in Armenian Affairs

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GLENDALE, Calif. — Community members and friends of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Western Region set aside an entire evening to honor Panos Titizian, a long-time champion of Armenian causes and interests. On March 22, over 200 guests gathered at the Hilton Glendale, including AGBU leaders, clergy, relatives, friends, and colleagues who came to know and work with Titizian in various chapters of his life — in his native Beirut or his adopted country — the United States.

Born and raised in Kessab, Syria, and Lebanon, Titizian earned his professional degree in pharmacology from the American University of Beirut. He is also an alumnus of the AGBU Melkonian Educational Institute, an Armenian boarding school known, during its tenure, for its faculty of luminary intellectuals and its high academic credentials. After immigrating to the US and establishing residence in California, where at an advanced age he took the state pharmacology exam to be licensed, while continuing to be engaged in the community. Among numerous other involvements he served as a member of the Board of Armenian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles for many years.

Throughout the dinner and program, Titizian was described as someone with a subtle demeanor that belied his strong sense of intention and purpose. He was commended for his special way of working behind the scenes to build bridges among statesmen, inter-community organizations, and leaders of diverse political parties, particularly during the Lebanese civil war. He was also cited for helping to resolve internal crises within Armenian institutions, including the Church.

Key members of the AGBU leadership were present to show their respect for Titizian’s keen political acumen and leadership in service to the Armenian homeland, church, and broader community, along with his vast network of connections in and out of the community.

AGBU President Berge Setrakian delivered thoughtful remarks, as did AGBU Board Member Yervant Demirjian, who also served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

“I will share my thoughts of Panos as a dear friend, rather than formally as an honoree, said President Setrakian. “The lifelong path of almost a century of service to the nation, that Panos has travelled, from his native Kessab to the AGBU Melkonian Institute, the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, then establishing the largest pharmacy in Haret el Hereik, and later moving to Los Angeles, is a testament of his extraordinary personality and resilience…could you imagine that more than fifty years ago, when the Armenian community in Lebanon lived a self-contained and Ghetto-like  life, Panos stood out as an individual who reached out to the Lebanese community at large, establishing close relationships with highest ranking political figures and intimate friendships with officials among whom a colonel who then became president, as well as officers of the US embassy in Lebanon.  I came in contact with Panos through my uncle Hrachya Setrakian with whom he served in various committees through their tenure in public service. We were close both through shared organizational roles and through family. As a then young law student, I was impressed by Panos’s library which at that time had every single issue of the Foreign Affairs magazine, the articles of which he read and analyzed to the last detail. He possessed an extraordinary outlook and outstanding wide horizon. He has been to me a most trusted advisor for many years, whereby, looking back, I can truly appreciate his wisdom and foresight.” Setrakian concluded his remarks by wishing Titizian a long and healthy life, also recognizing Anahid, Panos’s wife, who had stood next to him all throughout his difficult life and career.

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Other distinguished guests made congratulatory statements including Garo Ghazarian, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Artoun Hamalian, Nora Titizian, and Hratch Sepetjian, who presented the newly published book of memoirs by Titizian. Finally, Titizian publicly thanked everyone for the touching tribute, expressing himself with his signature mixture of Armenian pride and quiet humility.

Heritage Quartet: Angela Amirian (first violin); Davit Sargsyan (second violin); Artashes Asatryan (viola); Garik Terzian (cello)

The evening’s entertainment featured benefit performances by the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School Dance Group and the Heritage Quartet, featuring Angela Amirian (first violin); Davit Sargsyan (second violin); Artashes Asatryan (viola); and Garik Terzian (cello).  The musical repertoire ranged from Mozart and Komitas to Gardel and Khachaturian. Rounding out the program was Titizian’s granddaughter Michelle Kazman, who shared fond childhood memories of her grandfather and concluded with a moving recitation of a poem dedicated to the Armenian language by Sylva Kaputikian.

AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School Dance Group

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, gave the invocation and Reverend Serop Megerditchian made the closing benediction, prior to which he read a congratulatory letter sent by President of the Armenian Evangelical World Council Dr. Vahan Tootikian.

The evening was made possible largely through the generosity of Sam and Sylvia Simonian of Texas. Sam Simonian, a long time AGBU board member, was recently named successor to current president Berge Setrakian, who, in accordance with AGBU governing by-laws, is set to retire this fall after nearly 50 years of service to AGBU with 22 of them as its president.

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