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Armenian Alumnus Remembered

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

By Julissa Zavala

(The Collegian) – Fresno State alumnus Dr. Harry Moordigian, Jr., whose legacy of support and generosity was fondly remembered, passed away on Nov. 11 at the age of 76.

“This is the ideal type of person that gives back to the university after benefiting from the education,” said Dr. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, coordinator of the Armenian studies program. “I’m sad to see him go, because he was very much present on campus.”

Moordigian was the only child of his Armenian immigrant parents and grew up on a grape ranch near Sanger. Moordigian graduated from Fresno State and became a dentist. Mugrdechian said that he got to know Moordigian through his involvement with various Armenian Studies program events and through his direct contributions to the program. Due to his Armenian background, Moordigian liked learning about the history and culture through the Armenian studies program’s events, Mugrdechian said.

Mugrdechian said that Moordigian was also an avid reader and supporter of the Armenian studies newspaper, Hye Sharzhoom, and kept up with program events and attended lectures over the years. He said that Moordigian was very invested in Fresno State, and not just in the monetary sense, but because he felt that he wanted to give back as a graduate of the university.

Moordigian’s parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Moordigian’s mother escaped to America, but she died of cancer when he was 2 years old. Moordigian’s mother had written a letter that spoke of the traumatizing events that she had experienced during the genocide. Moordigian then decided to donate to help people going through counseling.

Dr. Christopher Lucey, director of the Fresno Family Counseling Center, had known Moordigian for several years.

Lucey said that before Moordigian’s support, the counseling center was struggling financially. Lucey also said that Moordigian helped the center get more attention from the university, bringing the total of sessions from 500 to almost 10,000 per year.

“The students loved this guy,” Lucey said. “They called him our guardian angel, because he came through for us in a time when we really needed a lot of help.”

Lucey said that Moordigian had a big heart and cared for people struggling in the community, and that he supported the center and believed in its mission.

“His generosity, vision and kindheartedness allowed us to not only survive, but thrive,” Lucey said. “His gift to us allows us to give back to the community.”

Alcidia Freitas Gomes, executive director of the Ag One Foundation and senior development director at the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, said that because Moordigian grew up on a grape ranch, he understood and appreciated the importance of agriculture.

Gomes said that Moordigian wanted to honor his parents, so he made an endowment fund in their names to the students of viticulture and enology.  

“He so much enjoyed supporting students that were pursuing degrees in viticulture and enology,” Gomes said. “He was someone that I was very fortunate to have known.”

Gomes said that Moordigian’s final gift to Fresno State is a microbiology laboratory in his name in the Jordan Agricultural Research Center that will open in spring 2016.

“He loved Fresno State,” Gomes said. “It was important that he be able to give back to his alma mater because it helped to change his life and so he wanted to make sure that he could do the same for others.”

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