Tom Samuelian, Dean of CHSS, Announces Retirement from AUA

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YEREVAN, Armenia – Dr. Thomas Samuelian, often referred to by his colleagues as “a source of inspiration” and “an impressive scholar,” announced this fall that he is retiring from his position at the American University of Armenia (AUA) as a professor and dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS). Dr. Samuelian has devoted nearly twenty years of his life to AUA, first as adjunct professor of law, then as Dean of the Law Department, and most recently as dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Throughout his tenure, the AUA community has benefited enormously from Dr. Samuelian’s service as a prominent scholar, translator, experienced lawyer and influential instructor.

Dr. Samuelian is a prolific writer and translator. He has written a number of books and articles in the field of Armenian language, literature, and history. His works include A Course in Modern Western Armenian; a verse translation of the Armenian epic David of Sassoun; and a translation of Yeznik of Kolb. Professor Arpie Balian, who has known him for over 35 years, believes that “for Dean Samuelian, passion for and commitment to knowledge stands above all. Irrespective of the channels used to contribute to Armenia’s development through knowledge and diverse expertise, Tom is there.”

AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian praised the departing dean in comments echoing those he made at a farewell reception organized by AUA’s administration: “Tom has made many significant contributions to AUA during his nearly 20 years of service. Chief among them are his role in conceiving the University’s strategic plan in 2011-2012 that led to the development of our undergraduate programs, in formulating our undergraduate programs in 2012-2013, particularly the General Education component, and, as the Accreditation Liaison Officer, preparing the University for re-accreditation in 2014. We are sorry that he is leaving his position, but are sure that he will remain a steadfast friend and valuable resource for the University. Tom, we wish you well and utmost success in your future endeavors.”

Dr. Balian first got to know Dr. Samuelian as a reviewer of a textbook he authored in Western Armenian, then as a reader of his superb translation of Narekatsi, and finally as an expert advisor who was called upon her many international and local entities. “In all of these cases, Tom came through as an impressive scholar, an expert legal advisor, and a great sounding board on a wide range of topics in the social sciences. He will be missed,” she said. 

Prior to AUA, Dr. Samuelian’s academic career included serving on the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and St. Nersess Seminary. He has enjoyed a successful career in the field of academia.

He earned his Juris Doctorate from Harvard University and worked as an international attorney in various countries including the US, Armenia, Russia and Kazakhstan. Nearly two decades ago, Dr. Samuelian co-founded Arlex International Ltd., a leading law firm and business consultancy in Yerevan. He has authored numerous studies in law and public policy, including proposed measures for Armenia’s Anti-Corruption Strategy and Protection of Armenian Cultural Heritage.

Bearing high spiritual and moral values, as well as holding his PhD in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Samuelian’s full potential as a great scholar found its reflection in his exceptional translation of St. Gregor of Narek’s Book of Lamentations, a medieval prayer book.

His endless commitment to the Armenian nation and Church has also been recognized on a national level. In 2006, Dr. Samuelian was awarded the St. Sahak-Mesrop medal, among the highest honors bestowed upon individuals who have made outstanding contributions to education, scholarship, culture, and community service, by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians. Dr. Samuelian was praised by the Catholicos “as a committed Christian and a bridge between Armenia and the Diaspora.” Additionally, on occasion of AUA’s 25th anniversary in 2016, Dr. Samuelian was awarded the RA Presidential Medal of Appreciation. 

The former RA Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian described Dr. Samuelian as “a Renaissance man, a son of his nation, endowed with a deep spiritual inner world, strong convictions and high principles which inspire his work and which he generously shares with his co-workers and students.”

Dr. Samuelian possesses an exceptional talent for generating enthusiasm and helping people believe in themselves. For Adelaida Baghdasaryan, the current chair of the LL.M. program, Dr. Samuelian was a source of inspiration both throughout her time as a student at AUA and afterward, when she decided to apply to Harvard University.

“Tom communicated ideas in a way that everyone could relate to. He made me think about my abilities and encouraged me to do something I had never even dreamed of. Now I try to convey the same enthusiasm to my students,” Baghdasaryan said. At Dr. Samuelian’s retirement party, she struggled to hold back tears.“ He has a wonderful outlook, and he is always open to new ideas. Throughout my years of working here, I have had many ‘crazy’ ideas, but whenever I would tell him about them, I’d never hear ‘no.’ He would listen and support, always,” she recalled.

CHSS Interim Dean, Dr. Donald Fuller, is another person who is well-acquainted with Dr. Samuelian’s many skills and influential presence. “If I was trapped in a gondola in Switzerland 50 meters from the ground, I would hope that Tom was in there as well. He would speculate about the possibility that we would ever get out. In the meantime, we would probably start singing or telling the best jokes we could think of,” he said. “He knows that anything made by man can be changed by man. As to what the change should be, he has one or several ideas.”

CHSS Manager Hambardzum Matevosyan who has worked alongside Dr. Samuelian describes him as “a leader, a mentor and an adviser.” Matevosyan continued, “He appreciated hard work, coached me to see the ‘big picture’ and consistently kept our team on track through encouragement and support. His interdisciplinary vision about the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and belief in shared decision-making greatly contributed to my personal growth and increased my commitment to the college. I am grateful for all that he has done for us.”

Among his students, Dr. Samuelian is remembered for many things, such as being a great professor, but also for small things like “wearing cool sunglasses during the matriculation ceremony back in 2013,” as one of his students, Sevak Karapetyan, a graduate student in the Political Science and International Affairs Program, recalled. 

Karapetyan also describes Samuelian as a great instructor. “I remember how effectively he could manage the class. He would calm everyone down in a very delicate way only once, and that was enough to keep the class calm and attentive throughout the rest of the semester.” 

AUA is immeasurably grateful to Dr. Samuelian for his endless passion, vigor and commitment to the community, and has been fortunate to have the contributions of such an influential scholar. His absence will be greatly missed amongst his colleagues and students. Dr. Samuelian has left a huge mark on AUA both in academic circles and in interpersonal relations. He is an example of an exceptionally talented man who still remains humble and approachable.

As Dr. Fuller said, “The world needs more Tom Samuelians.”