At its annual fundraising event, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies recognized philanthropist-entrepreneur and USC trustee Ronald Tutor.
Founded in 2005, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies is a multidisciplinary program with a broad mission to increase understanding of modern Armenia. It represents a deepening of longtime ties between the university and the Armenian-American community.
The gala dinner, held May 18 at the Universal City Hilton, drew 700 guests and raised $2 million to support the institute’s activities.
President and chief executive officer of the Tutor-Saliba Corp., Tutor recently donated $30 million for the construction of USC’s Ronald Tutor Campus Center. He was the guest of honor at the event, which celebrated the achievements of California Armenians in the last half century.
Family friends Judge Dickran Tevrizian and his wife, Geraldine, gave remembrances of growing up with the Tutors in the close-knit Armenian community of Southern California. After a short video presentation on the Tutor family, USC Provost C.L. Max Nikias formally introduced Ronald Tutor, describing him as an outstanding Trojan and a generous benefactor to the university.
In his remarks Tutor thanked the institute and spoke about growing up in an Armenian family that emphasized respect and the importance of family and community.
Earlier in the evening, Richard Dekmejian, professor of political science in USC College and director of the institute, presented a report on the institute’s achievements and future plans. Since its inception the Armenian studies institute has sponsored more than 50 events that drew total attendance in excess of 6,000, Dekmejian said.
USC College Dean Howard Gillman announced the introduction of a minor in Armenian studies in USC College. From the podium he also expressed his strong commitment to the institute’s programs and activities.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Edward Roski Jr., chairman of USC Board of Trustees, then spoke of his fond memories growing up with Armenian friends and families in Southern California, as well as his determination to continue USC’s quest for excellence. Roski is chairman and chief executive officer of Majestic Realty Co.
Charles Ghailian, chair of the institute’s leadership council, took the podium to announce that $4 million had been raised for the institute since its inception, and a total of $10 million is needed as an endowment to accomplish the its planned activities and goals.
Ghailian acknowledged the evening’s honorees for their achievements and thanked the attendees, the USC leadership and alumni for their support in making the institute an enviable success.
A video presentation by Ara Madzounian depicted the lives and achievements of 60 California Armenians who have distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavor. Honorees included Emmy-nominated actor Mike Connors, former California Gov. George Deukmejian, college basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and ex-Navy Secretary Paul Ignatius, each of whom addressed the audience to speak of their life experiences as Armenian-Americans.
The gala banquet culminated with a special video tribute to the philanthropy of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation and the noteworthy contributions of the United Armenian Fund.
The founders of The California Courier, now in its 50th year, were also recognized. Courier co-founder and University of Maryland professor Reese Cleghorn spoke about the late George Mason, who joined with him in 1958 to start what is now the oldest independent English-language Armenian newspaper in the United States. Harut Sassounian, current Courier publisher, president of the United Armenian Fund and senior vice president of the Lincy Foundation, also appeared to offer his thanks.
Closing the evening, Lincy Foundation president Jay Rakow addressed the audience, offering words of encouragement and commitment to support Armenian education.
The festivities had commenced with a performance by the Trojan Marching Band, presentation of colors by the USC Air Force ROTC Color Guard, and the American and Armenian national anthems. After dinner, a medley of Armenian songs opened the second half of the program, highlighted by the traditional love song “Eem Chinaree Yaru” sung by Alenoush Yeghnazar, who was accompanied on piano by Vatche Mankerian, the institute’s program manager.