On Sunday, May 22, 2022, over 200 members and friends of the AGBU Western Region convened at the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Performing Arts Center in Pasadena for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Resuming the annual tradition of celebrating AGBU Founder’s Day, which marks the formation of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in 1906 in Cairo, Egypt, a rich program of speakers and live entertainment, as well as a ribbon cutting ceremony of the new AGBU Innovation Studios and a special exhibition of Western Region archives was presented to the dignitaries, distinguished guests and diverse audience members assembled under one roof.
A theme of resilience and progress
By all accounts, it was an auspicious day for the community to come together in person to demonstrate that, despite the many setbacks of the last two years, the AGBU Western Region community managed to emerge stronger, more productive, and on course to an even brighter future than before virtual reality became the new normal.
In her welcoming remarks, AGBU Western Region Director Gohar Stambolyan set the tone and mood for the occasion. “Our local community is ready to move forward building on a strong foundation of commitment and loyalty, as we grow in new areas of programming and cultural appreciation. Today, you will see the fruitful progress of these efforts during our program.”
Among the salient proof points was the launch of the AGBU Innovation Studios initiative, marked that day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly renovated space called Innovation Studios Atrium. California State Senator Anthony Portantino presided over the official launch. “The new Innovation Studios located in Pasadena is an impressive learning center where students will have a unique opportunity to connect STEAM education to their Armenian culture. I look forward to seeing the program succeed,” the honorable senator stated.
Wide representation from youth groups
A variety of groups tied to the Western Region AGBU family participated. AGBU Young Professionals (YPs) of Los Angeles was represented by its co-chairs Tenny Khatchatourian and Carin Touloumdjian, who served as program emcees. AGBU AYA Pasadena/Glendale and San Fernando Valley Scouts opened with the presentation of colors, followed by vocalist and AGBU MHS alumna Maral Kurdian, who sang both American and Armenian national anthems.
Views and news from community leaders
Other speakers appearing on stage included His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, who delivered the Benediction and AGBU Central Board Member Yervant Demirjian with a special message from AGBU global leadership.
Western Region Community Affairs Representative Talin Yacoubian provided an update on AGBU’s community engagement efforts and noted how they are still aligned today with the founder’s intentions. “We are proud to continue the vision of our founders of ensuring not just the survival of our people, but also the empowerment of our people, through strategy, policy, and integration,” she said, also clarifying that integration did not mean total assimilation.
AGBU Educational Programs Manager Nare Avagyan introduced the Innovation Studios concept and invited the audience to take an after-show tour.
Cultural performances by talented artists
The line-up of live performances showcased the array of talent within the community. AGBU LA Choir performed the works of four Armenian composers and AGBU LA Special Events Committee Chair Asdghig Dadourian recited excerpts from Henrik Tumanyan’s Book of Existence. AGBU Performing Arts Scholarship recipients Alexandra and Lilia Yaralian paid tribute to world-famous composer Aram Khachaturian, on the kanun, with Arin Sarkissian and Anoush Pogossian on flute and clarinet, as well as Raffi Wartanian on the oud. Students from different grade levels at the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School performed an Armenian song, a folk dance, and a poem. The program concluded with the Pasadena Glendale Scouts’ rendition of the AGBU and AYA anthems.
AGBU Innovation Studios Tour
After the special ribbon cutting ceremony, AGBU Central Board members and CA State Senator Anthony Portantino joined the tour of the Innovation Studios. This dedicated space was designed to provide a nurturing environment in which middle and high school students can explore real world topics and help solve complex challenges using creativity and critical thinking. The program equips them with the tools and design resources needed to tackle any challenge in their educational or career journey—3-D printers and laser cutters, the latest software in graphics, art, music, photography, video, animation, robotics, and game design, along with a wealth of mixed media materials for traditional arts and crafts. The next session begins this June.
Exhibition of AGBU Western Region Archives
During the post-event reception at AGBU Boyadjian Hall, attendees also had the opportunity to view a rich display of AGBU historical documents, some dating back to the origination of first AGBU regional chapter in Fresno in 1910. The exhibition included other photographic memorabilia and objects of interest to educate the younger generation of the deep presence of AGBU in the Western Region since the turn of the last century.
To view the full photo gallery, go to https://agbuwesternregion.org/gallery/116-th-anniversary-founders-day/