On April 24-25, 2021, a series of events dedicated to celebrating the life of Vartan Gregorian was organized in Armenia. Earlier that month, Aurora Co-Founder, member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee and the twelfth President of Carnegie Corporation of New York passed away. The commemorative events took place at the Matenadaran, the Saint Gayane Church in Etchmiadzin, and the Komitas Museum-Institute.
On April 24, Aurora held a special event at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts, bringing together Aurora Co-Founders Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan (who joined the participants remotely from Boston, Massachusetts), Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Creative Council Marine Ales, President of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Radik Martirosyan and Director of the Matenadaran Vahan Ter-Ghevondyan, who all paid tribute to Vartan Gregorian’s remarkable mission. According to the tradition, the names of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians were also revealed during the event.
Pondering on the importance of the occasion, Vahan Ter-Ghevondyan noted: “This day has become the day of opposing darkness with light. Together with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, this building hosts the annual announcement of Aurora Humanitarians, and today, there is an additional reason to be here. Aurora Co-Founder Vartan Gregorian has left us, and this is a tribute to his life. For me personally, for many more, Vartan Gregorian has been a role model because of his dedication to culture, charity, education, and science on a global scale.”
Aurora Co-Founder Ruben Vardanyan, who has known Vartan Gregorian for decades, was visibly emotional as he talked about what this loss meant for him. “He was a person that I’ve learned a lot from. I consider the moment when I made his acquaintance to be one of the happiest moments of my life. He was a great mentor, a teacher, a person that everyone liked and respected. I’m yet to see someone [else] like that. Vartan’s name, Vartan’s role in America and elsewhere in the world have been a powerful presence and a powerful force,” said Mr. Vardanyan.
Aurora Co-Founder Noubar Afeyan expressed his deep regret with being unable, for the first time, to come to Armenia on April 24, and highlighted the spirit of Vartan Gregorian: “Vartan was a guiding light for us. The simple answer to what made him so prominent and influential was himself [and] what he represented. I come from a scientific background and I’m going to violate some law of mathematics in saying that Vartan was not an addition of things; he was a multiplication of things. If you take wisdom, compassion, curiosity and devotion, and you multiply them together, you get Vartan Gregorian. I’ve interacted with many, many people in the world. There was no one who represented a new level of what “extraordinary’ meant, as did Vartan. And in fact, just like in sports, just like in arts, once in a generation, once in 100 years, somebody comes and sets a new standard that others compare to. Vartan was that standard.”
Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, echoed this sentiment by saying: “We and the world have lost a legend. Armenia and Armenians everywhere have lost of their greatest leaders. I say that without any hesitation. I have met the great and the good; Vartan was different. Although he is gone, I still feel his spirit, and I don’t think he will ever leave us. He was a great scholar, he was a great philanthropist, he cared, he was kind.”
Vartan Gregorian dedicated his life to his two great passions – knowledge and philanthropy – and will be missed in both these worlds, according to the President of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia Radik Martirosyan. “Vartan Gregorian was a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences, so his passing was a great loss for us. I had opportunities, on several occasions through my life, to meet and converse with Vartan Gregorian. His work was pretty diverse and varied. Vartan was a Renaissance man – after receiving his university education, he worked at different educational institutions, and he was a brilliant specialist in oriental history,” noted Dr. Martirosyan.
A particularly touching tribute came from Marine Ales, Chair of the Aurora Creative Council, who said: “We come to this world; we don’t choose the timing. And we leave at the time that’s been allocated to us, for better or for worse, being loved a little. But there are some chosen ones, who are timeless. They are the offspring of eternity. I believe that Vartan Gregorian is one of them. We were all privileged that we enjoyed an opportunity to live at the same time as him and to not only learn from him but even to collaborate with him.”
The next day, on April 25, a Sunday liturgy took place at the Church of Saint Gayane in Etchmiadzin in the presence of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, the President of the Republic of Armenia Armen Sarkissian, Aurora Co-Founder Ruben Vardanyan and Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee Lord Ara Darzi. Following the liturgy, Karekin II paid tribute to Aurora Co-Founder Vartan Gregorian, who has recently passed away, and the attendees in memorial prayer to honor him.
The same day, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative hosted the Vartan Gregorian Remembrance Evening at the Komitas Museum-Institute. This celebration of his life and legacy featured the Hover State Chamber Choir that performed pieces by Komitas, Ola Gjeilo, Andrey Bruckner and Vache Sharafyan, as well as one of Vartan Gregorian's favorite songs, On the Wings of a Dream, composed by Marine Ales.
Aurora Co-Founder Ruben Vardanyan thanked everyone who had helped to organize the commemorative events and expressed his gratitude to the Hover Choir for their heartfelt performance. “It is very hard to talk about Vartan in the past tense. He intended to move to Armenia and to promote education here; we had lots of plans. It is a huge loss for the world, for us,” said Mr. Vardanyan.