Kathy Lalazarian, a senior public sector specialist of the World Bank, was a talented leader and professional who tragically passed away in 2018. As the lead for World Bank-supported public sector reforms in over a dozen countries in regions across Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Central Asia, she made a great impact on many across the world. On a personal level, she was a caring and beloved friend to many who had the privilege of knowing her. Following her untimely passing at the age of 46, friends and colleagues approached Lalazarian’s relatives and shared their desire to honor her memory in a meaningful and lasting way. Family members Raffi and Ani Zargarian proposed the idea of the gift of education, which ultimately led to the creation of the Kathy Lalazarian Endowed Scholarship Fund at the American University of Armenia (AUA) in her honor.
For Lalazarian, an American national of Armenian descent, her ancestral homeland of Armenia held a special place in her heart. From 2005-2010, she led the World Bank’s program supporting public administration reform in Armenia. This involved assisting the government with strategic planning of governance reforms, building institutional capacity for policy formulation, service delivery, civil service training, human resource management, and other related reform efforts. It is notable that “a good portion of her career was spent leading programs in one of her homelands, Armenia,” says her cousin Ani Zargarian.
Zargarian recalls the overwhelming enthusiasm of Lalazarian’s colleagues and friends to honor her life. Zargarian and her father had proposed the idea of creating scholarships for Armenian students and this had resonated with the group and seemed right to pursue. They approached AUA, initially intending to make a donation of several one-time scholarships. These preliminary discussions led the group to consider the option of creating an endowed scholarship fund that would remain in perpetuity, keeping Lalazarian’s memory alive through the gift of education to generations of AUA students.
“Beyond the fact that AUA is among the leading higher education institutions in Armenia, our choice was also motivated by the fact that Kathy was an American national and the daughter of an Armenian father,” said Davit Melikyan, a friend of Kathy’s from World Bank, Armenia.
The endowment is meant to also create opportunities for women. Although both male and female students will be eligible for the scholarship, the group proposed that female candidates are given priority. This will help to ensure that women receive a competitive education and succeed in the modern world. “Kathy’s tenacious, vivacious and vibrant spirit will live on in our hearts but also transcend and flourish through the many young women this scholarship will benefit,” states Zargarian.
The group who initiated and donated funds to this scholarship comprises friends and colleagues from the World Bank, most of whom do not have Armenian heritage, but respected Lalazarian so much that her cause became theirs. They expressed the impact Lalazarian had on their lives. “Being a professional mentor, Kathy was also a good friend who made a tremendous impact on my value system and showed me what it means to live a meaningful life,” said Maya Gusarova, a close friend and colleague of Lalazarian. “Her trust and respect have contributed a lot to my professional self-esteem. They gave me the confidence to lead projects and teams.”
Zargarian adds: “My cousin Kathy was a special, brilliant individual who impacted and influenced everyone she encountered in her life whether academically, professionally, personally or spiritually.” She poignantly describes Lalazarian’s strong-willed fight against breast cancer: “Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer a day after she wed the love of her life, Edward Castillo Morera, in August 2014. In true Kathy fashion, she valiantly and gracefully took on a monster, endured it, overcame it, then endured it again. Watching her navigate her illness with a positive warrior attitude, with such strength, courage and optimism will forever remain a source of inspiration to me… I tried to learn and embrace her positive energy and appreciation for life at its simplest and purest forms. She taught me the importance of finding a state of unconditional happiness.”
Lalazarian’s memory will remain dear not only to her friends and family but also to all those students who will be able to benefit from a quality education at a leading university thanks to the Kathy Lalazarian Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values. For more information about AUA and its donor opportunities, please visit philanthropy.aua.am.