Words of Wisdom: AUA Holds Inspirational Talk with Mihran S. Agbabian and Vartan Gregorian

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YEREVAN, Armenia – On October 14, 2014, the American University of Armenia (AUA) hosted a talk, titled “Conversation with Two Great Men of Education: Mihran S. Agbabian and Vartan Gregorian.” The event was moderated by AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, who asked them questions about their lives, careers, and the future of AUA.

Mihran Agbabian is President Emeritus of AUA and Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC). He headed his own consulting engineering firm, Agbabian Associates, for 20 years before joining USC as Chairman of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He received his M.S. in Engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1948 and his Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 1951.

Vartan Gregorian is the twelfth president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Prior to that, he served as president of Brown University from 1989-1997, president of The New York Public Library from 1981-1989, and Tarzian Professor of History, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Provost of the University of Pennsylvania from 1972-1981. He received his Ph.D. in History and Humanities from Stanford University in 1964 and is the author of three books: The Road to Home: My Life and Times, Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith, and The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, 1880-1946. He was born in Iran.

The packed audience at AUA’s Manoogian Hall listened on as Mr. Agbabian and Mr. Gregorian told stories of their successes, their failures and their experiences as foreigners in the United States. When talking about his achievements, Mr. Gregorian stated, “Throughout my life, I’ve always done the unexpected.” The audience, in particular, was very inspired when he stated, “I have never applied to a job, never been fired from a job, and never signed a contract for a job. My work is my contract.”

Mr. Agbabian, one of the founding members of AUA, cited the American University of Beirut (AUB) as an inspiration to him when he was originally planning on establishing a university in Armenia. When speaking about ideas for the future of AUA, he stated “One option is to become an international university like AUB. The other option is to strengthen the program and prepare the students for leadership. If that is achieved, then I think we’ve done our job.” Overall, Mr. Agbabian’s impressions of AUA – which started as just an idea and has now turned into a highly-praised institution – are positive. “What I see, I love. It’s wonderful,” he said.

Mr. Gregorian offered his advice as well when he stated, “Armenia owes a lot of gratitude to the Armenian diaspora, especially the Americans. But Armenia cannot just receive. There are many millionaires and billionaires in this country. Wealth that has been created in this country should be reinvested in this country. The youth is our future, and what we need to do is make young Armenians independent.”


Mihran Agbabian (left) and Vartan Gregorian (right).