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Armenian Assembly Mourns Loss of One of its Founders Haig Der Manuelian

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Haig Der Manuelian speaking at the second Airlie House Conference.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) mourns the loss of one of its founders and past board member Haig Der Manuelian, who passed away on December 1st. Der Manuelian participated in the Airlie House conference that established the Assembly in 1972 and was a member of the Assembly’s National Steering Committee in 1973.

Haig Der Manuelian and Robert A. Kaloosdian were the first people approached in 1971 by George Washington University faculty members John Hanessian, Jr. and Haikaz Grigorian with the idea of forming a new Armenian organization in which leaders from various Armenian groups would participate for the benefit of the community as a whole. Hanessian, Grigorian, Kaloosdian, and Der Manuelian decided that the benefits of such an assembly far outweighed the risks of creating another community-based organization. Thus, they formed an organization, headquartered in our nation’s capital, to represent and promote Armenian interests. With Armenian-American community members across the country, they launched the Armenian Assembly – a non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues.

“Behind his ever present smile and latest favorite bow tie Haig willingly shared his legal expertise, pro bono, with many non-profit Armenian organizations. His legacy includes the Armenian Assembly and the monumental establishment of the Armenian Museum of America of which he was a founder and inspirational leader who brought forth countless others to follow his lead,” Assembly Vice Chairman and Counselor Robert A. Kaloosdian said. “At a time when he was reflecting on his recent retirement, his journey was abruptly and unexpectedly halted, and he will be greatly missed,” Kaloosdian added.

(L-R): Haig Der Manuelian, Dr. John Hanessian, Jr., Robert A. Kaloosdian, Dr. Howard Sachar, and Dr. Richard Hovhannisian at the second Airlie House Conference.

“Haig was a relentless and fierce advocate for Armenians and Armenia,” said Assembly Board of Trustees President Carolyn Mugar.

An attorney by profession, Haig was a partner at international law firm Holland & Knight LLC, and was named one of “Massachusetts Super Lawyers” in Boston Magazine and Massachusetts Super Lawyers Magazine. He applied his legal background to help the Assembly grow and succeed. Haig was instrumental in securing a million dollar endowment to the Assembly Internship Program. In 1990, he recommended the idea to Aram Terjenian, Annie Thomas, and Florence Terjenian to include in their trusts an endowment to perpetuate the Assembly Internship Program. By 2003, in part thanks to Der Manuelian's counsel, this summer program was renamed the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program. Haig called the donors “modest, unassuming, kind, and gentle persons who welcomed an opportunity to put their resources permanently to such a good purpose.”

Haig worked tirelessly to support the Assembly’s mission, especially during its formative years. He remained dedicated to the Armenian-American community and passionate throughout his life for the betterment of Armenians everywhere. Haig participated in numerous Assembly mission trips to the homeland after independence in 1991. He joined Assembly trustees on October 28, 1991 in a meeting with Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrossian and partook in the opening of the Housing Component Complex in Gyumri.

The Der Manuelian family has always been deeply committed to Armenia and the Assembly. Haig’s son, Matthew Der Manuelian, opened the Assembly’s Yerevan office on February 10, 1989, soon after the December 7, 1988 earthquake.

“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, we would like to express our deep condolences to the Der Manuelian family and friends for their loss,” Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated. “Haig was one of the most dedicated and hardworking people that we ever met, and we are proud to continue his original vision of the Assembly to connect leaders of the Armenian-American community and bring everyone together for a common goal. Though he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on through the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian Museum of America, and his other selfless projects,” they added.

Der Manuelian was also one of the Founding Members of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), where he played an important role in its first two major initiatives, the establishment of chairs in Armenian Studies at Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  

(L-R): Community leaders first met in 1972 to discuss forming an “assembly” of Armenian-American organizations at the Airlie House in Warrenton, Virginia. (Back row) Vartkes Kassouni, Hirair Hovnanian, Ralph Baker, Garo Garabedian, Armen Topouzian, Avedis Sanjian, Harry Sachaklian, (front row) Lionel Galstaun, Robert A. Kaloosdian, Haig Der Manuelian, Stephen Mugar, Hagop Nersoyan, Dennis Papazian, and John Hanessian, Jr.

Visiting hours will be at the Aram Bedrosian Funeral Home, 558 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown, MA on Friday, December 9, from 4:00 – 8:00 PM. The funeral service will take place on Saturday, December 10 at 10:00 AM at First Armenian Church, 380 Concord Avenue, Belmont, MA.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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