Vahram Shemmassian, head of CSUN’s Armenia Studies Program

NORTHRIDGE (CSUN Today) — California State University, Northridge has received an anonymous $2.1 million gift to support its Armenian Studies Program and special collection holdings.

The gift establishes an endowed directorship in Armenian Studies in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures in CSUN’s College of Humanities, as well as supports the efforts of the special collections and archives unit of the Oviatt Library to maintain the archives and artifacts of the collection accompanying the generous contribution.

“While the donor chooses to remain anonymous, the impact of a generous gift like this will not be unnoticed,” said CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison. “The gift will touch so many lives. CSUN educates more Armenian students than any other university in the world outside of Yerevan, Armenia. This gift will strengthen an already strong program that provides a foundation of knowledge about Armenian culture and the impact Armenians and Armenian Americans have, not just in California, but throughout the world.”

Vahram Shemmassian, head of CSUN’s Armenia Studies Program, hailed the gift “as a true treasure that will enrich young minds and spark further interest in collective Armenian life, particularly in the last 100 years that have witnessed unimaginable tribulations, as well as revival like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”

CSUN’s Vice President for Advancement Robert Gunsalus called the anonymous gift a “generous confirmation of the important role CSUN plays in the community at large and in the Armenian community specifically.”

“CSUN students graduate with an education that empowers them to become change makers, not just in their communities, but in California, the nation and the world,” he said.

CSUN’s Armenian Studies Program, established in 1983, promotes the study of the language and culture of Armenia and Armenians, and helps prepare the next generation of scholars in the field. The program offers students support, workshops, public lectures and outreach programs. Through their work, faculty, staff and students in the program strive to contribute to the scholarly analysis and understanding of the challenges the Armenian people have faced at home, in the Near East and the Caucasus, and in the Diaspora.

Additionally, the program has launched, in partnership with the Liberal Studies Program’s Integrated Teacher Education Program, an effort to prepare future public and private school educators who have the skills to teach Armenian culture and language.

Among the holdings of the Oviatt Library’s special collections are archives of Armenian families that date back to the pre-World War I Ottoman period, including letters, books, artifacts, clothes, and jewelry. A number of the archival materials chronicle the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian immigrant experience in Los Angeles. Once the archives are processed and ready for viewing, they will be available to the public.

Shemmassian said the anonymous gift ensures that future generations will learn about the Armenian Genocide, and the role of Armenian Americans in Los Angeles and the Southland played in establishing the second largest Armenian community in the diaspora, after that of Russia.

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