YEREVAN — The American University of Armenia is proud to announce the naming of the Collaborative Study Space in the Main Building foyer in recognition of the recent $300,000 generous gift by Flo Thomasian Speck.
Born in Rhode Island and raised in California, Thomasian Speck grew up in a family dedicated to the preservation of the rich Armenian cultural heritage. Her parents, Zevart and Vagharshag Thomasian, served as role models for their three children being deeply involved in humanitarian efforts that provided aid and relief to displaced Armenians scattered in different parts of the world. Their legacy of philanthropy is what inspires Thomasian Speck today.
“To me, the American University of Armenia is an integral part as well as a contributor to our story. Through its educational programs, the country’s historic past is academically preserved, and future leaders of Armenia are prepared to compete successfully at home and on the world stage,” she notes.
After graduating from the University of Southern California, Thomasian Speck held various positions, including ten years with the Los Angeles Dodgers in public relations and promotion, and several posts in political campaigns that brought her to Sacramento for positions in the California Department of Justice and in the state Attorney General’s office. “But what I consider the greatest job of all,” she underscores “was the opportunity of helping the late Hon. George Deukmejian become the Governor of California. His election to the state’s highest office was a source of pride and joy shared by millions of Armenians throughout the world. And rightly so, since his years in the legislature and as a governor were marked by an honorable record of accomplishments that few other public officials would match.”
The governor appointed Thomasian Speck to serve as California’s first-ever Director of Tourism with the responsibility of promoting the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry. Bringing together key elements of the industry, they created the first tourism development program that led her to Armenia years later after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Republic of Armenia gained independence.
“At the invitation of the late Vahakn Hovnanian, I traveled to Armenia and became acquainted with many young people. The patriotism and enthusiasm they exhibited for Armenia were impressive despite the dire conditions in those years,” Thomasian Speck remarks. “My most inspiring Aha! moment was discovering the American University of Armenia. What better way for me to honor the memory of my mother and father than supporting the university and directly contributing to its potential for the future of the country.”
The idea was especially meaningful considering that her parents had supported youth and educational organizations through the Armenian Educational Foundation and the Armenian Youth Federation. Thomasian Speck’s decision to support AUA was a tribute to her parents and their undying hope for a bright future for our homeland.
“I chose to name the Collaborative Study Space at AUA because it’s the place where students, faculty, staff and others gather to discuss issues and exchange ideas. During my own college days, such sessions were often the source of critical thinking — in some cases, they set us in the right direction. We learned how to listen, which is different from just hearing. I think the collaborative study space provides the right forum for deliberation and exchange.”
Thomasian Speck views AUA as a garden of education where “the seeds of Armenia’s future are planted.” She is confident that “if well-tended, it will yield bountiful harvests for Armenia’s future.”
More people might consider planting seeds and choose any of the diverse naming opportunities available at AUA. By becoming an AUA donor, you can have a significant impact on a thriving generation of brilliant youth. The naming opportunities do not only build permanent bridges between donors and the University, but also create a spiritual bond with the recipients. Donors can witness the real results from seed to bloom.
“If anyone were to ask why I feel so passionate about the American University of Armenia, I’d answer in the words of William Saroyan written in 1935: ‘Go ahead, destroy this race! Destroy Armenia! See if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their homes and churches. Then, see if they will not laugh again, see if they will not sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.’ Now, let’s plant more seeds!”