BOSTON — The Knights of Vartan’s 99th Annual Grand Convocation welcomed 200 members and their families, as well as hundreds of Armenian community members, from August 8-13, 2017 for a series of innovative workshops, meetings, tours and evening events. The Boston chapters of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Ararat Lodge and Arpie Otyag, hosted the Convocation in celebration of the Ararat Lodge’s 100th Anniversary.
This year’s Convocation Committee was led by Knights Convocation Committee Chairman Nelson Stepanian, Committee Co-Chairman Michael Gulessarian and Daughters of Vartan Matron Committee Co-Chair Anahid Matiros, from the Boston chapters.
The Convocation events included a city tour of Boston’s Armenian Heritage Park and historic Armenian institutions, an Armenian Art Show, a Surf and Turf event at Holy Trinity Armenian Church, the 100th Anniversary Dinner Dance with Ellie Berberian and the Sayat Nova Dance Company, and the formal Grand Banquet to culminate the week’s events. Proceeds from the Art Show and 100th Anniversary Dinner Dance (attended by 400 people) went to support the new Hye Pointe Armenian Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts.
Outgoing Grand Commander Steven Kradjian presided at the Grand Convocation and the August 11-12 business meetings, which accomplished many charitable and educational objectives. The Knights and Daughters of Vartan allocated financial support for certain key charitable initiatives: the Christian Cana Center in Armenia, the Mekhitarist Fathers in Venice, the Holy Sepulcher Renovation (Save the Tomb) in Jerusalem, the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia NGO, the Armenian Charitable Lighthouse Foundation, scholarships for Armenian American Students, and scholarships for Students in Armenia to attend the American University of Armenia. In addition, the following projects will continue to be funded: Partnership with CASP (Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program) to benefit needy children in Tavush; the Armenian Schools Support Project in Armenia in partnership with the World Bank; grants from the Knights of Vartan Fund for Armenian Studies; and the Annual Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York.
This Grand Convocation saw the culmination of the successful tenures of Knights of Vartan Grand Commander, Steven Kradjian of San Diego, California, who served for three years and Daughters of Vartan Grand Matron Sona Manuelian of New Jersey, who served for two years, spanning the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Centennial of the Knights of Vartan and the opening of the Communications Office in Yerevan. Outgoing Grand Commander Steven Kradjian commented, “One hundred years after our organization was established in the USA to help lead the recovery of our people who suffered and perished in the Armenian Genocide, the Knights of Vartan has returned to the Homeland, strong and determined, establishing the Communications Office as our permanent presence in Armenia, to help strengthen our mission partnerships and better serve the Armenian people.”
Established in 2016, the Knights of Vartan Office of Communications this year was fully staffed upon the July 2017 hiring of Liaison Gohar Palyan of Yerevan who heads the Communications Office in Yerevan. She brings over 17 years of experience in local and international non-profit organizations (Habitat for Humanity, Fuller Center for Housing Armenia), holds an MBA, and is committed to Knights of Vartan mission and charity work in Armenia. She made an appearance at the Knights annual meeting by live Skype broadcast from Armenia. Outgoing Grand Commander Steven Kradjian was appointed to oversee the Knights of Vartan Communications Office in Yerevan, to provide guidance and support.
The Grand Convocation is also the time when the Knights and Daughters of Vartan recognize fellow Armenians for their exceptional work. Outgoing Grand Commander Steve Kradjian and outgoing Grand Matron Sona Manuelian and their officers presented special recognition awards for select members who have distinguished themselves through service, including district representatives, lodge merit awards, individual key contributor awards, and the delegates and leaders of the first official Knights and Daughters of Vartan business meeting held in Armenia on September 20, 2016.
Most notably, this year’s the Knights of Vartan Man of the Year Award was presented to Mr. Nazar Nazarian and the Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Laura Korkoian.
Among the most generous benefactors of the Armenian Community for decades, including many Knights of Vartan Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemorations, Mr. Nazarian and his dear wife Mrs. Artemis Nazarian are heroes of the Armenian community. Outgoing Knights of Vartan Grand Commander Steven Kradjian commented, “Mr. Nazarian’s personal example of leadership, dedication and support for the Armenian People are an inspiration to service and leadership for all of us. The reach and impact of his benevolence continues to improve the lives and opportunities generations of Armenians. We are honored to call Mr. Nazarian a Modern Man of Vartanantz.”
This year’s Woman of the Year Award recipient, Dr. Laura Korkoian, is an Emmy-winning executive producer and director of A&E’s hit series, Born This Way. This groundbreaking series depict the lives of seven young adults, born with Down Syndrome, as they pursue their passions and live their lives, while defying society’s expectations. Dr. Laura Korkoian’s reality television credits include MTV’s The Real World, The Emmy-Winning series Starting Over, The Bad Girls Club, America’s Next Top Model and The Simple Life, among many others. Outgoing Grand Matron Sona Manuelian noted Laura’s inspiring example to help all of us see individuals with Down Syndrome in a new light, as human beings with the same desires and needs as anyone else.
Looking forward, the 2017 Grand Convocation saw the election and installation of the incoming Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan, Dr. Gary Zamanigian of Detroit, Michigan, and Grand Matron of the Daughters of Vartan, Ms. Diana Tookmanian of Pasadena, California.
The Incoming Grand Matron, Diana Tookmanian was born in Pasadena to a strong Armenian family and heritage. She grew up in the Armenian Cilicia Evangelical Church, Pasadena, where she has held numerous board positions and is presently the Vice-Moderator, President of the Dorcas Guild, and Board member of the Ladies Auxiliary. Grand Matron Diana graduated from Pasadena City College with an Associate of Arts Degree and from California State University of Los Angeles with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Home Economics and also has a California State Brokers License. She joined the Daughters of Vartan, Varteni Otyag, Pasadena, in 1990. She has held many positions and was Matron in 2001-2003 and 2011-2013. She has volunteered in a leadership capacity at numerous nonprofit organizations in the Los Angeles area.
Incoming Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Wayne State University earning his BA then M. Ed. Dr. Zamanigian received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Kansas City University. He was the President of Michigan Osteopathic Association during 2001-2002 and was appointed to the Michigan Public Health Advisory Council by Michigan Governor James Blanchard for four years. Dr. Zamanigian volunteered in number of organizations and held leadership positions including St. John Armenian Church, Southfield, Apostolic Society Member; Eastern Diocese Delegate; Chairman of AGBU Detroit Men’s Chapter, member of AGBU Midwest District Committee and Central Committee of America. He joined Knights of Vartan in 1970 in Detroit, Nareg Lodge #32, then Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge #6, serving as Commander (1982-1983) and Grand Lt. Commander (1989-1990, 1997-1998).
During his speech at the Grand Convocation, Dr. Gary Zamanigian said “As Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan, I will continue and expand where possible projects which help to enrich the lives of Armenians in Armenia. Furthermore, I wish to recruit into the Knights of Vartan young qualified Armenian professionals to continue our service to the Armenian Nation.”
The Grand Lodge has seven officers, including Grand Commander, and during 99th convocation the newly selected officers were: Lieutenant Grand Commander Howard Atesian, Grand Chaplain Garry Javizian, Grand Treasurer Ed Bedikian, Grand Recorder Deacon Richard Norsigian, Grand Master of Ceremonies George Boyagian, and Grand Sentinel Ray Boujoulian.
The Knights of Vartan Inc. is a fraternal leadership and service organization of Armenian men dedicated to safeguarding and perpetuating the Armenian heritage and cultural traditions. Its membership represents the spectrum of the leadership of the Armenian community. It was founded in 1916 in Philadelphia and is based the United States with 25 local chapters which support Armenian causes around the world.
The Daughters of Vartan is an Armenian Sisterhood associated with the Knights of Vartan. It was organized in 1933 in Philadelphia. The Daughters of Vartan is an organization of women whose members are committed to the intellectual, personal and leadership development of Armenian women and families around the world, while also promoting Armenian heritage and Christian values through its 19 chapters across the US.
For more information about the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, visit http://kofv.org.