Vartan GregorianFriday, September 11, 2020
Vartan Gregorian (born April 8, 1934) is an Armenian-American academic, educator, and historian. He has been serving as president of the Carnegie Corporation since 1997.
An Armenian born in Iran, Gregorian moved to the United States at 22. He graduated with dual PhD from Stanford University. He subsequently taught at several universities and his work as a historian focused mainly on the Muslim world. He went on to join the University of Pennsylvania faculty, then as its provost. From 1981 to 1989 he served as president of the New York Public Library during which he succeeded in financially stabilizing the institution and revitalizing its cultural importance. From 1989 to 1997 he served as the first foreign-born president of Brown University. Gregorian's work has been widely acknowledged. He has received dozens of honorary doctorates, the National Humanities Medal (1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2004).
Vartan Gregorian was born on April 8, 1934 in the city of Tabriz in northern Iran to Christian Armenian parents Samuel B. Gregorian and Shushanik (née Mirzaian).His parents had high school education. His father worked for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan and was mostly absent. His mother died of pneumonia at 26, when he was six and his father later remarried.Vartan and his younger sister, Ojik, were raised by his maternal grandmother, Voski Mirzaian. She came from a family of scribes, but was an illiterate peasant and Gregorian described her as wise. His grandfather owned an inn for camel caravans. Regarding his family origins, he said that he could not determine if they were indigenous to the area, or settled there in the 15th, 16th, or 19th century, because "they were mostly from peasant villages that migrated to Tabriz."
He first went to an Armenian elementary school in Tabriz, then a Russian one when northern Iran was under Soviet occupation. When Iran regained control of the area, he learned Persian. He was told by Edgar Maloyan, the French vice-council in Tabriz of Armenian origin,that he had to go to Beirut because he was "too smart to stay in Tabriz.'' He followed his advice and continued his studies at the Collège Armenien (Jemaran) in Beirut, graduating in 1955. Before moving to Beirut, he spoke Eastern Armenian, some Russian, Persian and Turkish. He learned French within a year. Among his teachers there was Simon Vratsian, the last prime minister of the First Republic of Armenia (1918–20). He was one of Vratsian's unofficial secretaries. Gregorian described him as both his mentor and his benevolent benefactor. He also briefly worked as a reporter in Beirut before emigrating to the United States in 1956. Gregorian came to the US with the initial intention to return to Beirut to teach Armenian history in a high school. In another interview, Gregorian said he studied Portuguese so he could become the principal/director of an Armenian high school in São Paulo, Brazil. In 1956 He enrolled at Stanford University and completed his BA in history and humanities in just two years, graduating with honors in 1958.