Cummings Foundation Grant Recipient

In Memoriam: Edward Avedisian (1937-2022) ~ NAASR Board Member and Philanthropist

Ed Avedisian In Memoriam NAASR

With great sadness, NAASR joins with family and friends and the Armenian community worldwide in mourning the passing of Edward Avedisian on December 7, 2022. Avedisian, a world-class clarinetist who performed with the Boston Pops for 35 years and the Boston Ballet Orchestra for 43 seasons, among other orchestras, served on the NAASR Board of Directors since 2016 and was principal benefactor for NAASR’s Vartan Gregorian Building which opened in 2019. Click here for a video honoring Ed Avedisian (2021).

Avedisian’s philanthropy was not limited to his essential role in the creation of NAASR’s new building. He also founded and served as principal benefactor for the Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian K-12 School and Community Center in Yerevan, named for his parents. He is a trustee of the American University of Armenia and principal benefactor of the university’s Paramaz Avedisian Building, named for his late brother. He also honored his brother by making a transformative gift to the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy and was presented with an honorary doctorate by the university.

Pictured: Ed Avedisian with students at Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian School in Yerevan
Most recently, in September 2022, he made an extraordinary $100 million gift to Boston University’s medical school, which is now renamed the Aram V. Chobanian & Edward Avedisian School of Medicine, honoring both Ed and his childhood friend Dr. Aram Chobanian, dean emeritus of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus as well as University president emeritus.

A Belief in the Transformative Power of Education

Yervant Chekijian, NAASR Board Chairman from 2016 to 2022, who spearheaded the campaign to create NAASR’s new headquarters, has recalled that “as our friendship flourished, Ed joined the NAASR Board. He recognized NAASR’s achievements of the past and believed in its future. Guiding his vision is his belief in the transformative power of education. As we were planning NAASR’s new headquarters, Ed challenged me to be more ambitious to secure NAASR’s mission for future generations as a global center. He said, ‘Make the plans and let’s talk.’”

Current NAASR Chairperson Judith Saryan observes that “Ed Avedisian had extraordinary vision, optimism, and generosity. He believed deeply in the importance of education in creating a better world. We are eternally grateful for his tremendous legacy which we honor in NAASR’s global center.”

Pictured: Yervant Chekijian, Vartan Gregorian, and Ed Avedisian at the NAASR building grand opening, Nov. 1, 2019

Edward Avedisian, the son of Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian, grew up in Pawtucket, RI, where he attended public school and served as president of his graduating class. “We lived in an immigrant neighborhood, so you got an education on the street, combined with your formal education. I wouldn’t change a thing. My parents encouraged me. I knew that education was the ticket.”

Accomplished Musician Turned Investor

Avedisian earned bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in music at Boston University and enjoyed a long and successful career as a top-flight clarinetist. In addition to his long tenures with the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet Orchestra, he held posts in the Atlanta & North Carolina Symphonies, Boston Opera Co., Boston Lyric Opera and Harvard Chamber Orchestra, as well as substitute engagements with the Boston Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera. He has appeared as soloist with the Armenian State Philharmonic, the Armenian Radio and TV Orchestra, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, and was visiting artist to Boston’s sister city of Hangzhou, China, in 1998.

He was twice appointed a Fromm Fellow for contemporary music performance at Tanglewood under the direction of Aaron Copland and received an American National Theater Academy Award for his performances in Europe in 1962. He also served as Adjunct Professor of Music at Boston University (1970-1980) and lecturer at Endicott College (1970-1976) and served for two years as a panelist for the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts (2000 & 2001).

During his musical career, he was also developing as a self-taught investor. “I’d be running to catch planes to perform with an orchestra and would pick up a Wall Street Journal,” he later recalled. “I read about new technology, invested and plowed the earnings back into my investments. I’m a risk-taker,” he says. “Going into music was risky, and investments are risky. But you live and learn.” On many occasions, he would self-effacingly say, “I got lucky.”

A Humble Man Who Made a Huge Impact

Many visitors to NAASR’s headquarters building have expressed surprise that it does not bear Ed Avedisian’s name. Those who knew him, though, recognize this as being consistent with his character. Yervant Chekijian notes that Ed was “a humble man. As we were approaching the completion of our new building, I kept asking him how he would like the Avedisian name to appear on the building. He said, ‘Who am I to have my name on this fabulous building? I am just a musician who has been a good investor. The building should bear the name of a person who has distinguished himself, someone scholarly like Vartan Gregorian, whose achievements are in line with NAASR’s mission and who has dedicated his entire life to educational advancement and the pursuit of knowledge.’”

Chekijian aptly observes, “Ed’s life embodies the values at the heart of NAASR’s mission.”

Edward Avedisian is survived by his wife Pamela, his sister Zvart Avedisian Onanian, his brother, Paul Avedisian, two generations of nieces and nephews, and many cousins.

In keeping with Ed's wishes there will be a memorial event at the NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building in the spring of 2023.

Click here for the Boston Globe article about Ed's life.

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