NORTHRIDGE — California State University, Northridge chemistry professor Gagik Melikyan is the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim inspirational Teacher Award recipient.The annual Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards publicly recognize specific educators by spotlighting their impact on the lives of students. The awards celebrate the teaching profession, the important role of teachers in society and seeks to inspire others to pursue this profession.“To be a teacher is the most exciting, most demanding and most rewarding profession,” said Melikyan. “I enjoy challenging my students, making them believe in themselves, creating life-changing opportunities and putting them on the path to a prosperous future. Every new day is as exciting as the first day on the job as an educator.” “I have known Gagik for close to 10 years as dean of the college,” said Dean of Science and Math, Jerry Stinner. “I have tremendous respect for Gagik and consider him to be one of the finest scholars and mentors in the college. He is a first-rate scientist, with a remarkable publication record, and is incredibly dedicated to training students in his laboratory.”

Nominated by students they once taught, the award recipients reflect the power one teacher has to inspire others and transform lives, according to Kennedy Center officials.

Melikyan was nominated by Christopher Wild, a student who earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees fromCSUN, and is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas Galveston.“He is one of those students who will make CSUN proud as their alma mater,” said Melikyan of Wild.“Dr. Melikyan is my professional role model and was the catalyzing figure of my academic and professional development while at CSUN,” Wild said. “He continues to play a prominent role to this day.”Wild noted that Melikyan’s “high level of knowledge is apparent just after one lecture. He demands excellence while being very fair. In his research lab, Dr. Melikyan trained me himself. As an incoming Ph.D. student in medicinal chemistry, I was able to hit the ground running. I was so well trained that I was immediately able to conduct research independently.”Another one of Melikyan’s colleagues, Steve Oppenheimer, a biology professor at CSUN, noted Melikyan’s talents when he said, “Gagik is a fantastic teacher, research scientist and author. His enthusiasm and clarity in the classroom are distinguished. His award-winning book on exposing problems with hundreds of thousands of chemicals (Guilty Until Proven Innocent), is a truly important contribution to public health and welfare. It is a classic and should be read by everyone.”Melikyan is quick to point out that CSUN has been one of the main reasons for his success.

“Over the last two decades, CSUN has provided such a large amount of support, encouragement, understanding and appreciation that I could hardly receive in any other setting,” said Melikyan. “And the current accomplishments, both in the classroom and research laboratory, could not be possible without continuous assistance and help provided by the university, college and departmental levels.”

On the award, Melikyan said “of course, it is a great honor coming from such a reputable institution. I consider it to be an appreciation of my decades-long commitment to provide quality professionaltraining to my students, both in the classroom and most importantly in the research laboratory.”

The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards were created in 2010 in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday and were initiated and funded through the generous support of Freddie and Myrna Gershon.

On March 22, Stephen Sondheim‘s birthday, a select number of these teachers received The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, and a money grant in appreciation for their contributions to the field of teaching. Awardees will also be showcased, along with the people they inspired, on The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards website.

“The award will support my quest to educate the general public on health-related issues, as well as ongoing professional activities as an educator, writer and public advocate,” said Melikyan.

Wild knows first hand the importance of that education. “The greatest lessons he taught me, was that to be successful you must have confidence. And confidence comes from preparation which requires hard work.”

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