With an overarching theme of Excellence in Action, an inspiring celebration of the 110th anniversary of the AGU New England District was held in Greater Boston from June 1st to the 2nd.
The weekend brought together over 300 guests, including the AGBU leadership, a considerable number of young professionals, clergy, representatives of local, Armenian organizations, friends, and supporters.
The event also served as a fundraiser helping to collect $1.22 million for local and global AGBU youth programs. This anniversary gave the perfect pretext for the ABU New England District Committee to reflect on the past and mark the beginning of a new era. “This started the momentum for the AGBU New England District to focus on progressive and meaningful programs, especially those geared toward students and young professionals,” explains Ara Balikian, chair of the AGBU New England District.
The celebration began with a meaningful dialogue between the AGBU global leadership and members of the community. Close to 50 young professionals from across New England, met with members of the AGBU Central Board at Boston’s District Hall for a town hall forum which allowed for a candid and direct conversation about a broad range of issues, including the Velvet Revolution in Armenia, opportunities for engagement and the needs and challenges of our global nation.
Arda Haratunian, a member of the AGBU Central Board, began the discussion with a brief presentation on AGBU’s longstanding efforts in the areas of education, culture and identity, humanitarian and human rights work as well as the socio-economic development of Armenia, She went on explaining the concept of global Armenian nation which defines AGBU’s vision for the future of Armenia and the diaspora. Haratunian also emphasized that AGBU keeps building on its trusted reputation as, throughout the years, it continued adapting new strategies to serve the emerging needs of Armenians.
Over the past several years, AGBU has particularly expanded its approach to programming to create stronger ties between the diaspora and Armenia. AGBU President Berge Setrakian, underscored this prevailing theme as he addressed the young professionals. He drew their attention to the significance of the development of Armenia, conveying one of the fundamental beliefs of the AGBU leadership that there is no future for the diaspora without Armenia. The discourse continued with an open forum discussion with member of the AGBU Central Board Noubar Afeyan, Ani Manoukian, and Vasken Yacoubian, who took the stage with Haratunian to address the pressing questions of the crowd. “It is unique opportunity to have the AGBU Board members convene in one location from across the globe and be willing to have an open discussion with young professionals from New England,” said Vrej Pilavdjian, YP Boston chair. “The AGBU leadership wanted to hear from us and connect with us. This was a chance for our YP community to engage directly with our leaders and learn about the past of AGBU, ask about their vision for future and become motivated for the present.
The Weekend Culminated in a Gala
The weekend’s celebration culminated in the gala which took place at the Samberg Conference Center at MIT. Gala Co-chairs Lindsey Hagopian and Houry Youssoufian welcome guests after a video showcasing the early start of New England Armenians was screened. With professional touches they set the tone for a series of speeches and presentations.
Master of ceremonies Lia Oganesyan kept the crowd engaged by also sharing her family’s historic involvement with AGBU. Keeping the mood light and inspiring, Balikian took the stage to announce the launch of the AGBU Boston Summer Internship Program which will start serving students in 2019. He also motivated the crowd promising a series of new programs – including an entrepreneurship incubator – to accommodate the needs of New England youth and help them succeed in their fields.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of the AGBU New England District’s Global Excellence Awards. Prominent entrepreneur Dr. Noubar Afeyan, founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, and renown heart surgeon Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian, senior director of the Heart Failure and Transplantation Program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, were honored for their achievements and their significant support for their communities.
Dr. Afeyan spoke of his journey connecting to his roots and took the opportunity to encourage the crowd to activate their “Armenianess”. “I urge you to stop thinking in terms of Armenians by blood, but rather be Armenians by choice. To choose to be Armenian and serve the nation is an active notion. In making this choice, we welcome others to our community to truly engage and increase and increase our overall potential.”