Western Diocese Joins the 100 Pillars of AUA

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BURBANK, U.S. ‒ The Western Diocese of the Armenian Church announced it will become a Pillar of the American University of Armenia (AUA) through “The Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America.” To mark the symbolic occasion, leadership from both AUA and the Western Diocese gathered together on Tuesday, December 11 in a meeting of partnership and camaraderie at the Diocesan Headquarters in Burbank, California.

“This is truly an outstanding milestone,” said Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese. “There should not be one Armenian student who does not receive a university education.”

Academics have always been a priority for the Primate, which led to the formation of the scholarship fund that aims to provide scholarships and financial aid to students of Armenian descent enrolled in Armenian schools.

Archbishop Derderian remarked that the Western Diocese is “proud” of this initiative and highlighted the importance of the reciprocal notion of giving and receiving in life.

“I know how hard it is to fund an education,” said Archbishop Derderian, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theology at Oxford University. “I hope other organizations will now be encouraged to support this endeavor as well.”

Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, President of the American University of Armenia and Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America

Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, President of the American University of Armenia, expressed his gratitude to Archbishop Derderian, the Western Diocese and to Dr. Kris Mirzayan, an AUA Pillar and member of the Western Diocese Educational Committee, who served as the conduit between the University and the Church, noting he is a “big champion” of AUA and has been a “strong force in promoting the University.”

“In our history, the Armenian Church has always been a strong proponent of education,” said Dr. Der Kiureghian. “That continues today as the Western Diocese becomes a Pillar of our University.”

Dr. Der Kiureghian emphasized the noteworthy mission of AUA that “prepares future leaders of Armenia” and the integral role the University plays in the country’s development.

He provided further insight about the 100 Pillars of AUA program, which is an elite group of 100 donors who contribute $50,000 over a five year period to benefit the University where the funds are needed most, covering everything from scholarships to state-of-the-art facilities, to recruiting high-quality professors. Recent funds have been allocated towards the establishment of three new educational programs, including the MS in Strategic Management, BS in Engineering Sciences and BS in Data Science.

Sharing his thoughts, Dr. Mirzayan said the afternoon was a “happy occasion to bring together these two great institutions to help our students because no one should be left behind.”

Dr. Mirzayan thanked Archbishop Derderian for his ongoing support and stressed the positive changes AUA has brought to Armenia.  “Srpazan Hayr, you planted the seed for these students, who are the future of Armenia.”

Alice Chakrian, Chair, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund

On behalf of The Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund, Alice Chakrian, Chair, elaborated on the organization’s goals and the strides it has made in its brief history in terms of providing scholarships and establishing an endowment for future growth.

“Our short term goal was to provide scholarships for Armenians in the Los Angeles area Armenian schools but our long term goal was to always aid Armenia,” said Alice. “Thanks to Dr. Kris Mirzayan, our long-term goal became a short-term goal.”

Established six years ago to ensure that every Armenian student is able to receive an Armenian education in an Armenian school, the scholarship fund also recognizes the significance of advancing the greater community by encouraging and mentoring students to one day become leaders of the Armenian Church and the Armenian people.

“The Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund is honored to become a Pillar and continue to educate future generations of Armenians,” said Alice. “We have a great admiration for the University because it is beneficial to Armenians in the Diaspora and in the homeland.”

President Emeritus of the American University of Armenia and Chair of the Turpanjian Rural Development Program, Dr. Haroutune Armenian spoke about the far-reaching effects of funding the education of students in Armenia and cited many examples of successful AUA alumni who continue to remain connected to the University upon graduation.

“These scholarships impact both the student and a wider circle,” said Dr. Armenian. “AUA has awarded thousands of scholarships and that is a big sacrifice on the University’s part, but we do it because we know it can change the entire future of a people and of a country.”

Archbishop Derderian gave his positive impressions when visiting AUA’s campus, particularly the pristine grounds and the energy of the students.

“By becoming AUA Pillars, we help awaken the minds of young Armenians to study in the homeland,” said Archbishop Derderian. “We are all links in a chain that join together to help Armenia grow.”

Representing the Archbishop Hovnan Derderian Scholarship Fund were Anahit Andreassian, Roy Boulghourjian, Alice Chakrian, Eileen Keusseyan, Angela Parseghian and Silvana Vartanian. Other members include Armine Bedrossian, Angie Garibyan, Vicki Grigorian, Peggy Kankababian, Siva Katchiguian, Silva Sepetjian and Maggie Sumian. Also in attendance was The Very Rev. Fr. Dajad Dz. V. Yardemian, Dr. Maral Anjargolian, an AUA Pillar and member of the Diocesan Council, Harout Markarian, Executive Director of the Western Diocese, Sergey Arustamyan, Communications Department, and Diran Avagyan, Program Management/Special Assignments.

Other AUA representatives in attendance included Dr. Alina Gharabegian, Interim Dean, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Marianna Achemian, Assistant Director of Development, and Taleen Babayan, Associate Director of Development Communications.  

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. For more information about the American University of Armenia and its donor opportunities, please visit