The late Prof. Richard Hovannisian

Promise Institute Hosts Symposium Dedicated to the Late Richard Hovannisian

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LOS ANGELES — The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA hosted an all-day symposium dedicated to honoring and celebrating the life and legacy of the late UCLA Professor Richard G. Hovannisian on Saturday, April 6, 2at the UCLA Mong Learning Center.

The all-day event featured six separate sessions, with more than 35 speakers and panelists reflecting on Professor Hovannisian’s monumental scholarly and educational contributions during his 50-year career as a faculty member at UCLA.

Hovannisian, who passed away in July 2023, was the first holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, now named in his honor.

The symposium’s sessions focused on Hovannisian’s impact on Armenian Genocide research, both as it pertains to documentation and recognition, as well as to survivor testimony collection and archiving; on his scholarship on modern Armenian history, notably the publication of his groundbreaking four-volume series on the First Armenian Republic, as well as his 15 edited volumes on Historic Armenian Cities/Provinces; on his pioneering Armenian Studies as an academic field and co-founding important scholarly organizations; and on his critical role as a teacher and mentor, influencing the lives and careers of thousands of former students and colleagues.

As noted by Prof. Ann Karagozian, director of the UCLA Promise Armenian Institute, the symposium was designed “not only to honor Professor Hovannisian’s memory and legacy, but also to reflect on his impact and how each one of us, irrespective of our fields or backgrounds or even how well we knew Richard or our connections to him, can be inspired by his vision, and can continue, in our own way, his efforts on behalf of the Armenian people.”

A group photo of the participants of the Promise Armenian Institute Symposium dedicated to the late Prof. Richard Hovannisian

In addition to reflections by scholars, students, friends and colleagues, biographical videos showcasing Professor Hovannisian’s remarkable life and work were created by his daughter, filmmaker Ani Hovannisian Kevorkian.

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In opening remarks, writer and filmmaker Garin Hovannisian, one of Hovannisian’s grandsons, noted that his grandfather’s history, “in between” that of his Genocide-survivor parents and his children who saw realization of the dream of an independent Armenia, was, in fact, the most dramatic history of them all. “All alone, out of context, and without precedent…he decides to stand against the tides of history, and believed that [through his scholarly efforts and advocacy] he could reverse the tides of history, inventing the field of Armenian History [in the U.S.].”

Later in the program, Ani Hovannisian Kevorkian shared, “I am overcome with emotion, and love, and gratitude to the Promise Armenian Institute, to Papa, and to you because I realize that he is in all of you and all of us. And I know that Papa is smiling, very humbly and beautifully … not because this is about him and not because we are applauding all that he has done, but because we are carrying on what he gave us.”

The event was enhanced by a musical performance of historic Western Armenian pieces by renowned folk singer Hasmik Harutyunyan, kamancha player Vardan Baghdasaryan, and UCLA graduate student and duduk player Armen Adamian.

Written tributes to Hovannisian were also sent by UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, UCLA’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Darnell Hunt, and by Cindy Fan, UCLA’s vice provost for International Studies and Global Engagement. In addition, a pre-recorded video tribute was offered by Dr. Eric Esrailian, chief of the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and benefactor of the Promise Armenian Institute.

Among the many heartfelt reflections shared by former students, panelist and Glendale city Councilmember Ardy Kassakian noted, “What Professor Hovannisian taught me besides our people’s history was how to be unapologetically Armenian and how to be excellent in your pursuit… we were fortunate to have Richard in all our lives, so we have a roadmap to follow and a standard that was set, not just as it pertains to academia but in how to be an Armenian, an unapologetic pioneer.”

In closing remarks, one of Hovannisian’s sons, attorney Armen Hovannisian, reflected, “At the same time that he documented the past, his greatest success was in ensuring the prosperity and the progress of each of you here today and so many who are not here today… he is going to be known for not only memorializing what brought us here but also allowing us to have more clarity and confidence as to where we will be going.”

More than 250 people were in attendance at the Symposium, including former students and distinguished colleagues of Professor Hovannisian, Hovannisian family members and friends, UCLA students, faculty and staff, and members of the larger Southern California Armenian-American community.

Remembering Professor Richard G. Hovannisian: Looking Back, Moving Forward“ is now available for post-event viewing on the Promise Armenian Institute YouTube Channel.

This symposium was co-sponsored by the UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, the UCLA Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies, the UCLA Armenian Music Program, the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law, the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), the Society for Armenian Studies, the UC Irvine Center for Armenian Studies, the CSU Fresno Armenian Studies Program, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, the Ararat-Eskijian Museum and the USC Shoah Foundation.

 

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