YEREVAN—This year’s Commencement ceremonies celebrated a number of firsts for the American University of Armenia (AUA), including the inaugural AUA Presidential Commendation award, bestowed to Edward Avedisian. The award was given to the AUA Trustee and major benefactor of the University “In recognition of extraordinary achievements and distinguished service in the advancement of education in Armenia,” as stated on the Commendation.
Prior to embarking on a long list of philanthropic works, Avedisian established himself with a notable professional career as a musician, taught at a university, and became a successful investor. He served as a clarinetist in the Boston Pops and the Boston Ballet Orchestra for 30 years and 43 seasons respectively. His musical talent has spanned much of the East Coast as he held posts in the Atlanta & North Carolina Symphonies, Boston Opera Co., Boston Lyric Opera and Harvard Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Boston Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera. In Armenia, Avedisian has also appeared as soloist with the Armenian State Philharmonic, the Armenian Radio and TV Orchestra, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia.
Later in his career, Avedisian began combining his musical talents with teaching. He served as Adjunct Professor of Music at Boston University in the 1970s as well as a lecturer at Endicott College. Later, he was a panelist for the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts for two years. His service as an educator and musician were recognized in 2008 when he received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. From 1977, he served as Artistic Administrator of the Harvard Chamber Orchestra for fifteen years. While serving as orchestra committee chairman with both the Lake George Opera Festival and the Boston Ballet Orchestras, Avedisian wrote and successfully negotiated the first union contracts for both organizations.
As a private investor, Avedisian has reinvested his success by establishing endowments and award grants to a number of nonprofit organizations. At AUA in particular, he fully funded the Center for Health Studies & Research and the Center for Business Research & Development. Beginning in 2005, he served as the principal benefactor and Chair of the construction committee of the new 100,000 sq. ft. Paramaz Avedisian Building (PAB). The PAB, named after Avedisian’s late brother, now holds most of the AUA’s academic facilities including schools, colleges, and research centers and has added enormous value and space to the University.
Both in 2008 and 2014, he was awarded the Movses Khorenatsi Medal by Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian for Contributions to Education, Culture Literature and the Arts. In 2016, he was awarded the distinguished Ellis Island Medal of Honor and was one of the few recipients invited to deliver personal remarks at the ceremony. Presently, he remains a Trustee of AUA, the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research, and the Armenian Missionary Association of America.
During the 2017 AUA Commencement exercises, Avedisian was called on to be recognized for his extraordinary service to the University. “The award honors an individual who has made extraordinary contributions in advancing education and scholarships with a special impact on Armenia. I am therefore very pleased to announce that this year’s recipient is Edward Avedisian,” Dr. Der Kiureghian said.
Avedisian addressed the graduates, adding, “I was fortunate to get through school on a number of scholarships. But that is a very small accomplishment when I think of what I can do for others, and I encourage all of you to do the same.”