On May 30, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland held a reception in Cincinnati honoring first-generation immigrants who have made significant contributions to the state. Among others, the honorees included an Indian-American, a doctor born in a Nazi concentration camp, and two Armenian American immigrants, from Azerbaijan and Lebanon.
Tigran “Ty” Safaryan, who was also featured in a 2008 Armenian Weekly article on Ohio’s Armenian refugees from Baku, was honored for his entrepreneurial spirit and contributions to Ohio’s economy. Safaryan, who at 13 was a refugee, came to the United States in 1994 unable to speak English. Since then, he has become a powerhouse in the Columbus community, developing a thriving commercial real estate business, and owning and operating several automobile collision repair shops and towing companies, a car rental company, a business specializing in auto glass, and his newest creation, Sevan Autoparts. Just as Ohio is facing severe unemployment rates, Safaryan employs over 60 people throughout his businesses. As a testament to his dedication to the Armenian community and genocide recognition, every April Safaryan installs a giant screen in front of each of his businesses with a rolling tribute to the victims of the 1915 genocide, so that every visitor and passing car in Columbus can be a witness to true genocide recognition. With plans to further invest in the Columbus economy, Safaryan and his wife Viola currently reside in the city with their son Sergey.
The other Armenian American honoree at the event, Hagop Pambookian, is current Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. The son of genocide survivors, Pambookian came to the U.S. in 1961 after receiving his BA from the American University of Beirut, and eventually earned a PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan. Pambookian would go on to become the first American Senior Fulbright Fellow to teach for nine months in the Soviet Union, covering psychology from 1978-79 at Yerevan State University. His relentless dedication to scholarship has resulted in the acquisition of over 3,000 English-language textbooks and journals by the Fundamental Library of the Armenian Academy of Sciences in Armenia. As a nod to his achievements and his continued work in scholarship, Pambookian was elected as a Foreign Member to the Armenian Philosophical Academy, and to the Academy of Pedagogical-Psychological Science, both in Yerevan. Pambookian continues to promote his university, and the state of Ohio, as visiting lecturer and scholar at institutions of high learning across the world.
Joining Strickland and the honorees was David Krikorian, a co-host of the event who is currently running in the Democratic primary in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional district, where he garnered nearly 18 percent of the vote as an Independent candidate in the 2008 general election. Representative Jean Schmidt, whom Krikorian would likely face if he wins the primary next March, received only 45 percent of the vote when she ran against him and a Democratic candidate last year, making Schmidt the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to have received less than 50 percent of the popular vote in a general election.
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