Bryan and Valina Agbabian
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Pillars Bryan and Valina Agbabian Carry On Agbabian Legacy at AUA

3 min read

American University of Armenia (AUA) Pillars Bryan and Valina Agbabian lead a new generation of supporters of AUA by carrying on a family legacy. Their connection to the University began with Bryan’s late father, Dr. Mihran Agbabian, who was the co-founder and first president of AUA. The Agbabians are active participants in the Armenian community, striving to contribute to the longevity of their heritage for their children and future generations. The existence of the Republic of Armenia serves as an anchor for the Agbabians as they navigate the currents of life. They live in San Francisco, California with their two children, Lori and Arman. The Agbabians are deeply enriched by their cultural heritage, which is fundamental to their identity as a family.

Valina is the daughter of Vartan and Olga Ghookassian. Born in Tehran, she emigrated from Iran during the Iranian Islamic Revolution. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BS in Chemical Engineering and from the University of Southern California (USC) with a MS in Biomedical Engineering. Valina experienced first-hand the power and importance of higher education, particularly for women who want to contribute to the world, both personally and professionally. As an immigrant separated from her family, she underwent many challenges but found possibilities through her education. Her undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering were transformative and served as a gateway to greater opportunities. 

Born in Los Angeles, California, Bryan is a first generation Armenian-American. He graduated from UCLA with a BA in Economics and from USC with an MBA and MS in Business Administration. Bryan is now an investment professional with the Chartered Financial Analyst designation. 

In 1988, the Spitak earthquake devastated northern Armenia. Bryan directly witnessed his determined father, Dr. Mihran Agbabian, overcome the challenges of starting a Western-style university. “After the Earthquake, circumstances in Armenia were dire due to food and energy shortages, and the ensuing housing and health crises; few had the long-term vision to plan for a brighter future,” reflects Bryan on the state of Armenia after the earthquake. “I remember my father’s many sacrifices and trips to Armenia; time spent away from his family and the comforts of his home in Los Angeles — especially one trip, where he spent Christmas alone in his stark apartment in Yerevan, without heat and only a hot plate as a make-shift kitchen.” Bryan also recalls the countless family discussions about the founding of AUA. The first step was garnering support from the government of the Armenian Soviet Republic, and then support of the government of the newly independent Republic of Armenia. After that came obtaining the affiliation of the University of California, and then securing the financial support of AGBU, led by its then-President Louise Manoogian-Simone.

Today, Bryan and Valina Agbabian are members of the exclusive 100 Pillars, carrying on and advancing Dr. Mihran Agbabian’s vision. “We decided to join the 100 Pillars of AUA because we genuinely believe in the mission of AUA,” they say. Bryan and Valina feel that Armenia’s long term success and brighter future is rooted in the investment in higher education. Their decision to support AUA as Pillars was based on their own experiences and family legacies. “We want to make a significant contribution to ensure its continued success as a center of academic excellence, innovation, inquiry, and diversity. We became Pillars because we believe that higher education must be transformational, not transactional!” they affirm. “An AUA education opens a world of opportunities. AUA is the agent of transformation needed to enable greater creativity, leading to changes that will improve the lives of all Armenian citizens. The numerous degree and certificate programs as well as the various centers for focused research and analysis, generate a new generation of innovative and well-informed community members who will move the Republic of Armenia forward in our increasingly interconnected world.”

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 AUA and its donor opportunities, please visit