GLENDALE — The American University of Armenia (AUA) extends its deepest gratitude to Albert and Terry Bezjian for their extensive, impressive, and inspiring philanthropy. As AUA Pillars and ChangeMakers, they have generously supported AUA’s scholarship program, named the Bezjian Cafeteria in the Main Building on campus, and recently contributed to the University’s capital campaign, Build a Better Future with AUA, which aims to strategically expand campus facilities and academic programs.
Albert Bezjian, originally from Beirut, Lebanon, attended the local Armenian Evangelical College. In 1959, he relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his studies at California State University, Los Angeles, where he earned a B.S. degree in electro-mechanical engineering. During his undergraduate years, Albert worked as a product engineer, supplying parts to aerospace companies, including the Apollo project.
Shortly after, Albert was joined by his parents who emigrated to the United States in 1964. Two years later, they acquired a small Armenian grocery store in Hollywood, specializing in Armenian and Indian groceries, which they renamed Bezjian’s Grocery. It quickly became a renowned destination in Southern California. “Tour buses would bring tourists to the store to see the variety of products we carried from all over the world,” Albert fondly remembers. During this time, Albert also found success In his personal life. In 1965, he married Terry, and together, they started a family and were blessed with daughters Linda and Nancy.
By 1969, the aerospace industry was shrinking, prompting Albert to explore a new opportunity driven by Southern California’s growing immigrant population. He joined his parents in their grocery business and by 1975, expanded it to a wholesale operation called Indo-European Foods. The name was inspired by the association of Armenian with the family of Indo-European languages and the rich selection of food products it offered. Among Albert’s notable accomplishments is his creation of ZerGut, a brand of high-quality food products produced in Bulgaria by USDA and FDA food quality and safety standards. For over four decades, Albert nurtured Indo-European Foods, supplying goods to national and regional supermarkets and over 1,000 independent ethnic food retailers and distributors. In 2007, he sold the company, staying on board for a few more years to assist the new owners during the transition.
The Bezjians’ business success paved the way for their unwavering commitment to philanthropy. Particularly, their involvement in AUA has played a crucial role in increasing access to quality higher education to deserving students in Armenia. “We were impressed with what we learned about the University, especially its association with the University of California, which manages AUA’s endowments,” Albert recalls.
Albert and Terry are among the 100 Pillars of the University, an exclusive group of supporters whose investments buttress the foundation that provides students the benefit of an AUA education, as well as AUA Changemakers. “Armenia may not be a rich country and abundant in mineral or oil resources like its neighboring countries, but it boasts smart and ambitious young individuals hungry for higher education. AUA, with its impressive curriculum and international faculty, provides the highest level of education a university can offer in Armenia,” the Bezjians assert.
In 2019, the Bezjians fittingly named a campus facility, the Albert and Terry Bezjian Cafeteria, which serves hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and visitors on a daily basis. The renovated cafeteria has become a popular hangout on campus, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week.
More recently, Albert and Terry lent their support to the Build a Better Future with AUA capital campaign. This campaign will support the construction of three new buildings slated for science and engineering, humanities and social sciences, and arts. This campus buildup will also enable the University to expand its academic offerings and accommodate the projected doubled enrollment within the next five years. Given Albert’s academic background in engineering, he takes pride in this undertaking: “My wife, Terry, and I are pleased to help fund the construction of the new STEM building at AUA. There is nothing more important than education for the future of Armenia, and the sciences are among the top priorities.”
The Bezijans’ remarkable philanthropy enriches the AUA community, providing students and faculty with enhanced opportunities and resources. Through their active involvement, the Bezjians hope to inspire others in the community to value education thereby augmenting the capacity of Armenia’s youth. “The least that Armenians in the Diaspora can do is to make education affordable for these young boys and girls through more scholarships for higher education so they develop professional expertise and prosper. Armenia’s future depends on educating our youth to reach their full potential.”