BY PHYLLIS HAMO
Sponsors and guests of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) will long remember the Los Angeles Centennial Banquet of October 20, 2018. The event was the concluding Banquet and largest function of eight worldwide observances that marked 100 years of commitment and generosity to the AMAA. Board members, clergy, and supporters of the organization came together at this joyful event held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, a classic meeting place which opened its doors for the first time in 1923, just 5 years after the AMAA was founded.
The very first of the Centennial observances took place in October, 2017, in Teaneck, New Jersey, near Paramus Headquarters. The final banquet at the Biltmore capped off more than a year of these world-wide Millennium celebrations. Celebratory banquets were also held in Sydney, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Beirut, Paris, and Yerevan.
The noteworthy Los Angeles event paid tribute to the Stephen Philibosian and Conte Foundations, the Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian – TF Educational Foundation, and the Sheen Family Trust. In addition to the honorees, their families and friends, as well as leaders and sustainers of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the crowd enthusiastically celebrated a century of “faith, love, and service” when more than 500 celebrants gathered in the Biltmore’s elegant Crystal Ballroom.
Guests traveled long distances, some as far away as Armenia, Australia, France, Lebanon, and Syria. Many representatives journeyed to Los Angeles to celebrate a century of successful mission programs and the establishment of churches, camps, and schools founded and supported by the AMAA in 24 countries. The AMAA has set a fund-raising goal of $20 million dollars for the Centennial and raised 60% of the goal.
The Los Angeles Banquet was MC’d by prominent presidential speechwriter Ken Khachigian, who introduced both the current President of the AMAA, Dr. Nazareth E. Darakjian, and the AMAA’s Executive Director/CEO Zaven Khanjian who are working tirelessly to reach out to “friends of the AMAA” for their support.
Retiring West Coast Director Levon Filian was thanked for his many years of dedicated service to the AMAA as Executive Director, then as West Coast Director.
An AMAA Centennial video depicted the founding of the AMAA, its world-wide operations, ministries and projects.
Dr. Darakjian recognized Dr. Albert Phillips, founder of the AMAA Medical Mission to Armenia, established ten years ago, describing him as the “Albert Schweitzer of Armenia.”
Following the Dinner, a video presentation by Tina Segel gave historic information regarding Honorees, Stephen Philibosian Foundation, the Conte Foundation, the Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian – TF Educational Foundation and the Sheen Family Trust.
Kenneth Kevorkian introduced Joe and Joyce Philibosian Stein and recognized their decades of generosity and service to the AMAA and its mission, following the path of Stephen Philibosian, father of Joyce and her sister Louise, who established the very first AMAA endowment, created in his name. Sirpuhe Philibosian Conte and her husband John Conte also became life long benefactors of the AMAA.
Elizabeth Agbabian introduced Mr. and Mrs. Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian. “This unique couple,” she announced, “is modest, sincere, and caring. They have raised an exemplary family of four: Lori, Gary, Deanne, and Paul, who are here with their children to honor their mother and father.” The Turpanjians,” according to Mrs. Agbabian, “have also adopted an extended family named Benevolence. They are Godparents of the Armenian Community – generously sharing their bounty of the Turpanjian Family Educational Foundation.” Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian and their TF (Turpanjian Family) Educational Foundation were honored, not only for their support of the AMAA, but also for the American University of Armenia, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, Haigazian University, the Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School, Camp Hankavan, AMAA Child and Orphan Care, Syrian Relief, and the Armenian Evangelical Central High School, attended by alumnus Gerald Turpanjian.
Dr. H. Steven Aharonian recognized Dr. Jack Sheen and his late father John H. Sheen who established the Sheen Trust with the AMAA providing support to education, relief in Armenia and Lebanon, evangelism, and aid to churches and missions. Through the legacy of the John H. Sheen Trust, thousands of children attending AMAA’s Sheen-Shoghig Camp in Hankavan, Armenia get spiritual and physical nourishment.
The banquet’s invocation was offered by Rev. Berdj Djambazian, Minister to the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; the benediction by Rev. Vahan Tootikian, Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council. The American and Armenian national anthems and music were led by Maestro Greg Hosharian.
Master of Ceremonies: Ken Khachigian
Guests received a beautifully published 114-page commemorative booklet containing the history of the AMAA written by Rev. John Khanjian Ph.D, and descriptions of its worldwide missions. It also included congratulatory letters from around the world. The banquet Co-Chairs, Lori Muncherian, Arsine Phillips, Helga, Sarkis, and Tina Segal, worked earnestly with their Committee to produce a memorable evening. A profound statement highlighted in the booklet came from AMAA Executive Director/CEO, Zaven Khanjian who stated, “Not empires, nor structures, simply put, our focus is the individual. Building, rebuilding and making a difference in the life of the individual. Our collective act is summed up on how we impact the spiritual and physical wellbeing of our people – one life at a time.” According to Dr. Darakjian, the AMAA has come a long way in its 100-year history in accomplishing its mission. “We are carrying a torch that has come to us from our predecessors, and it is our duty to run with it and pass it on to future generations.”
In his closing remarks, AMAA Executive Director/CEO, Zaven Khanjian, summed up the year-long effort “The only sense and justification in our year-old celebration and the $20M Capital Campaign is in the vision of embracing the future in the Homeland, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas and everywhere the grace of God takes us.”
There are many giving and naming opportunities still available during the Centennial Campaign. Information for giving may be obtained by contacting Magda Poulos at AMAA headquarters in Paramus, 201-265-2607 or [email protected] The office is located at 31 W. Century Rd., Paramus, NJ 07652.