Vartan Gregorian

Vartan Gregorian, 1934-2021

Vartan Gregorian was a brilliant educator, generous-hearted humanitarian, and friend after whom NAASR’s beautiful new headquarters is named. His legacy continues to inspire future generations.

“Vartan Gregorian embodies the values at the heart of NAASR’s mission. He has dedicated his entire life to educational advancement and the pursuit of knowledge, engaging in public service throughout his career, and working to better the human condition. We are grateful that we can acknowledge and memorialize his tremendous accomplishments by naming the institution’s new headquarters the NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building.”  Edward Avedisian, NAASR Board of Directors and lead donor, NAASR Vartan Gregorian Building.  Photo by Kenneth Martin - pictured l-r Chairman of the NAASR Board of Directors Yervant Chekijian, Vartan Gregorian, and Edward Avedisian, on opening day November 1, 2019.
Born in Tabriz, Iran, Vartan Gregorian received his elementary education in Iran and his secondary education at Collège Arménian in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1956, he entered Stanford University, where he majored in history and the humanities, graduating with honors in 1958. He was awarded a PhD in history and humanities from Stanford in 1964. Gregorian has taught European intellectual history and Middle Eastern history at San Francisco State College, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1972, he joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty and was appointed Tarzian Professor of Armenian and Caucasian History and professor of South Asian History. He was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Penn in 1974 and four years later became its twenty-third provost until 1981. His outstanding tenure at the university has been honored with endowed professorships in English and in the Humanities and through several graduate fellowships in the humanities.

After an academic career spanning two decades, Gregorian served as President of The New York Public Library from 1980 to 1989. The institution includes a network of four research libraries and 83 branch libraries, and during his tenure, Gregorian was widely credited with restoring the status of the library as a financially sound, cultural landmark. In 1989, he was appointed the 16th President of Brown University, where he led a campaign that raised over $500 million, bringing the institution’s endowment past the $1 billion mark. Gregorian also oversaw the creation of several new academic departments. In honor of his legacy at the university, a residence quadrangle was named after him, as well as three professorships: the Vartan Gregorian Assistant Professorship, The Brooke Russell Astor Professorship in the Humanities in Honor of Vartan Gregorian, and the Aga Khan Professorship in Islamic Humanities created in honor of Gregorian. In 1997, the City of Providence renamed the Fox Point Public Elementary School after Gregorian to acknowledge his role in strengthening relationships between the university and the community.

In 1997, Gregorian assumed the presidency of one of the country’s oldest grant-making foundations, Carnegie Corporation of New York. His philanthropic work and scholarly accomplishments have been recognized with more than 70 honorary degrees and dozens of significant awards, including the National Humanities Medal, awarded by President William J. Clinton; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President George W. Bush. President George H. W. Bush appointed Gregorian to the J. William Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships, and President Barack Obama appointed him to the selection committee of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. Gregorian has also been decorated by the Austrian, Italian, Portuguese, French, and Armenian governments.
Gregorian was a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2001, following an honorary degree awarded by Yerevan State University in 1995. He was a former trustee of the American University of Armenia, a trustee emeritus of the Dilijan International School of Armenia, and a co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative with Ruben Vardanyan and Dr. Noubar Afeyan, who established the Vartan Gregorian Scholarship Program in 2018 to support scholarly research of Armenian history. In 2012, Gregorian was presented with the Republic of Armenia’s Medal of Mkhitar Gosh, and in 2017, he was the recipient of the country’s Order of Honor.