Ruben Vardanyan, Veronika Zonabend Visit AUA, Meet Aurora Gratitude Scholars3 min read
YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ On March 20, 2018, Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend, co-founders of the IDeA, RVVZ, and Scholae Mundi Armenia Foundations, visited the American University of Armenia (AUA). Guests were welcomed by AUA President Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, Vice President of Operations Ashot Ghazaryan, and Vice President of Finance Gevorg Goyunyan.
Following AUA President Dr. Der Kiureghian’s introductory remarks, Vardanyan delivered his speech to AUA faculty, staff, and students in Manoogian Hall. He introduced the new slogan of the IDeA Foundation “Think to Connect. Think to Create. Think to Act,” which reflects the plan for future actions of the Foundation. Vardanyan discussed the goals of the IDeA foundation, the challenges it faces, the importance of education, and sustainable development of the country. He said Armenians should go beyond survival. He noted that, “To have a big dream is to be very brave, because when you have a big dream it means you are ready to fail. Without this readiness you cannot achieve anything.”
Vardanyan concluded his speech saying that, “I hope what you are learning at the American University of Armenia is not only about getting knowledge provided by the best professors, but also learning to be brave, to act, to trust, to connect, to create. Be brave and don’t be afraid to make mistakes!”
The AUA community had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Vardanyan and ask him various questions regarding the IDeA Foundation’s contribution to local communities, support for research on Armenian identity, the promotion of medical tourism by creating health hubs, as well as teacher development programs, among others.
“Our students, faculty and staff are always eager to hear Ruben speak. He is a source of inspiration for us all and a model of integrity and generosity,” remarked Dr. Der Kiureghian.
The presentation and Q&A in Manoogian Hall were followed by a reception held in the Akian Gallery, where Dr. Der Kiureghian and Director of Admissions Arina Zohrabian highlighted the importance of the Aurora Gratitude Scholarships, which are granted by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative in cooperation with Scholae Mundi Armenia. From 2017 to 2023, citizens of five Middle Eastern countries who wish to pursue their education at the AUA will be eligible to apply for Aurora Gratitude Scholarships, which, depending on the level of need, may cover their tuition fees, as well as their travel and housing costs.
“Ruben Vardanyan and Veronika Zonabend, an extraordinarily visionary and philanthropic couple, have established the Aurora Gratitude Scholarships at our university. These scholarships are for citizens of five countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) that sheltered Armenians during the 1915 Genocide. AUA is very proud to be the institution that has been selected by Ruben and Veronika to offer study opportunities to these students as a measure of gratitude for the good deeds of their grandparents. While studying at AUA, these students also become acquainted with Armenia and its people and build lifelong friendships. Additionally, their presence at AUA adds diversity and richness to the experience of the entire AUA community,” noted Dr. Der Kiureghian.
Several Aurora Gratitude Scholarship recipients, who were present at the event, expressed their deepest gratitude to Vardanyan and Zonabend.
“This scholarship was beyond merely receiving financial aid. I witnessed how humans can help each other without expecting anything in return, and this restored my faith in humanity. Now, Armenia and AUA are a beautiful part of my story,” said one of the Aurora scholars, Riyadh Radhi.
In her final remarks, Zonabend, who is also a member of AUA Board of Trustees, expressed the hope to expand the scope of the Aurora Gratitude Scholarship program, reaching out to the citizens of Iran and Georgia. At the end of the event, she encouraged the Aurora scholars, saying that, “We believe in you. You are the future for not only Armenia, but for the whole world and the new leaders with great values. I wish you good luck in your achievements and I hope that you will become the ambassadors of this country.”
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.
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