President of the Carnegie foundation, Brown University, and Savior of the New York Public Library, Vartan Gregorian dies at 87 years old.
Vartan Gregorian was an Iranian Armenian immigrant who built an incredible career spanning decades in the fields of academia, philanthropy and culture.
He was born in 1934 in Tabriz, Iran and after many years of hardships and relocation across the Middle East he found himself enrolled at Stanford University on a full scholarship majoring in history and the humanities. He graduated Stanford with honors, eventually receiving a PHD in the subject in 1964 and a distinguished teaching award in 1969.
After his time at Stanford he worked at The University of Pennsylvania, where he was the founding dean of the Academy of Arts and Sciences while teaching Armenian and South Asian history. Eventually he became the schools 23rd provost until the year 1981
After U Penn, Gregorian’s Career moved him to Manhattan and New York City where he became the president of the New York Public Library and is widely credited with saving the library and its nearly 7.7 million books (one of the world’s largest collections). Gregorian was able to market the library as a landmark, hosting dinners and fundraisers with notable guests like Ronald and Nancy Reagan that ended up raising over $327 million dollars over the course of his tenure.
Gregorian also served as the president of Brown University where he more than doubled their endowment to $1 billion dollars and built a student residence center that still bears his name today. In 1997 Gregorian was given the presidency of the legendary Carnegie Corporation where he raised the endowment from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion. His advice in philanthropy was sought after by people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Walter H. Annenberg and even officials from the J Paul Getty trust. Under President Clinton he was awarded the National Humanitarian award and in 2004 under President George W Bush, Gregorian was given the highest civilian honor one can receive, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Vartan Gregorian was a titan for the Armenian cause in the United States. As one of the founding members of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the Aurora prize on behalf of Armenian Genocide survivors he has raised millions and millions of dollars to solve on the ground humanitarian challenges in Armenia. He was a champion for Armenians in education investing in education infrastructure all over Armenia. In 2016 Gregorian along with other prominent Armenians in the world called for Armenia to adopt “new developmental strategies based on inclusiveness and collective action” in order to turn Armenia into a modern and prosperous post-Soviet society.
Gregorian has written three books that highlight his life, the Middle East, and its history throughout the years. Gregorian is another example of Armenian excellence throughout the world that will surely not be forgotten for generations to come. His impact will always be known in New York City, the United States, Armenia and the world beyond.
By Shant Hambarchian
Photo by John Marshall Mantel/The New York Times