Washington, D.C. - The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) deeply mourns the loss of Dr. Richard Hovannisian, an esteemed scholar and preeminent authority in Armenian studies. With profound sadness, the Assembly joins the Armenian nation in paying tribute to Dr. Hovannisian’s remarkable contributions and lasting impact on the field, particularly his extensive research and unwavering dedication to the study and recognition of the Armenian Genocide. “Dr. Hovannisian not only elevated the quality and breadth of scholarship on modern Armenian history to new heights over a 60-year tenure of teaching, research, and publishing, but also elevated the rest of us and all other Armenians and Americans of good will at the same time. He truly represented the pride of a nation,” stated Armenian Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian along with Assembly President Carolyn Mugar. “He was a dear friend, and it was a great privilege to know and work with him. We share the pain of his family and friends from around the world. He will be greatly missed,” they added. In 1971, John Hanessian, Jr., and Haikaz Grigorian considered forming a new Armenian organization based in the nation's capital, to represent and promote Armenian interests. They shared their idea with Robert A. Kaloosdian and Haig Der Manuelian, and soon enlisted Richard Hovannisian and Lionel Galstaun, all of whom endorsed the concept enthusiastically. Two benefactors also came forward: Stephen P. Mugar and Hirair Hovnanian. The assembly concept appealed to their own sense of the need for intracommunity cooperation and for Armenian participation in the democratic processes of the United States. Dr. Hovannisian played an instrumental role in advancing the cause of justice for the Armenian people. His profound knowledge and expertise in Armenian studies, coupled with his commitment to preserving the memory of the Armenian Genocide, have significantly enriched our understanding of this tragic chapter in history. His sons, Raffi and Armen as well as his daughter Ani participated in the Assembly’s Summer Internship Program. Raffi and Ani also served on the Board of the Armenian Assembly. Additionally, Raffi served as the Assembly’s Office Director in Armenia and became Armenia’s first Foreign Minister after independence in the 1990s. In his remarks, on the occasion of the Assembly’s 50th anniversary, wherein the Assembly’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award was bestowed up Dr. Hovannisian, he recalled the founding days of the Assembly, when he and a group of seven individuals "had a dream to bring together our very divided community, all of whom were dedicated, but none of whom knew each other." He noted that when they all convened, they realized they had the same objectives and goals. They soon embarked on the "difficult task of bringing together our diverse community" and although there were obstacles from both inside and outside the community, such as battling genocide denial, he noted that their "objectives were furthered through the Assembly." "What the Assembly brought to American politics was to bring in individuals who had never belonged to an Armenian political party or an Armenian organization, but who had done well personally and wanted to do something for the cause, without necessarily being activists themselves, but being satisfied that there were activists moving on their behalf," he concluded. Back in 1972 Mitch Kehetian had written an article about a November 18 presentation by Richard Hovannisian at the AGBU Alex Manoogian School in Southfield, Michigan, attended by an “audience of more than 300 Detroit-area Armenians,” headlined “Armenian Historian Calls for End to ‘Frustrating Barriers & Prejudices.’” (Armenian Reporter, December 21, 1972) Kehetian quoted Hovannisian saying: “We have lived in a world of myth because the ideas and prejudices of our parents have been transmitted to us…and for the past 50 years or so we have endured a history of frustration because of these prejudices.” The Armenian Assembly sought to overcome these prejudices and divisions then and now, culminating in the successful and historic passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the House and Senate in 2019, and then the annual reaffirmations of recognition by President Biden and the Executive Branch.
Representative George Danielson addressing the 1976 Wolff Hearing on the Armenian Genocide. At the witness table Dr. Dennis Papazian, Dr. Vahakn Dadrian, Dicran Simsarian, Esq., and Levon Sarkissian. Seated first row: Dr. Richard Hovannisian, who also testified; Dr. Shavarsh Toriguian, Dr. Haig Kafafian. Seated third row: Berge Setrakian, Yervant Azadian, Hirair Hovnanian. Dr. Hovannisian spoke eloquently and prophetically of the continuing threat of genocide in front of the then Subcommittee on Future Foreign Policy Research and Development of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives.
Dr. Hovannisian also served as Chairman of the Academic Council at the Armenian National Institute (ANI), where he played a pivotal role in shaping the organization's agenda and spearheading innovative initiatives. Under his leadership, ANI's archival documentation on the Armenian Genocide was made accessible to scholars and researchers worldwide, facilitating invaluable research opportunities and fostering a deeper understanding of this seminal event. Past Armenian Assembly and ANI Board Chair, Robert A. Kaloosdian thanked Dr. Hovannisian for his unstinting leadership on the Academic Council, calling him “a bridge from our history to our reality.” He added, “Under Richard’s guidance, ANI has registered one successful year after another.” Dr. Hovannisian's scholarly impact is immeasurable, as demonstrated by his extensive body of work. His publications, such as The Armenian Holocaust: A Bibliography Relating to the Deportations, Massacres, and Dispersion of the Armenian People, 1915-1923, and the four-volume Republic of Armenia, have become seminal references in the field of Armenian studies. Additionally, his editorship of various books on the Armenian Genocide has contributed significantly to advancing knowledge and awareness of this historical tragedy. A member of the UCLA faculty since the 1960s, Dr. Hovannisian organized both undergraduate and graduate programs in Armenian History and has published more than 30 books. Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Hovannisian's contributions were widely recognized and celebrated. He received numerous accolades for his outstanding scholarship, including being honored as one of the country's most distinguished scholars of Armenian Studies by the Armenian Educational Foundation. As a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of multiple international awards and honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Hovannisian's work has made a lasting impact on the global academic community. In his honor and that of his beloved wife Vartiter, the Assembly is pleased to announce the establishment of an Endowed Internship in loving memory and tribute Dr. Hovannisian. His steady companion and research associate for more than 65 years, Dr. Vartiter Kotcholosian Hovannisian, was a much beloved Internist in the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Group and indefatigable advocate of truth. The Armenian Assembly of America remains resolute in its commitment to promoting education, advocacy, and universal affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. We will steadfastly continue our efforts to ensure that memory of victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide is preserved for future generations. With a community wake service scheduled on July 19 at 7:00 pm at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church in Montebello, CA and national funeral on Saturday, July 22 at 11:00 at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Fresno, CA, the Armenian Assembly of America extends its deepest condolences to his children Raffi, Armen, Garo and Ani, and to Dr. Hovannisian's extended family, friends and colleagues. His loss leaves an irreplaceable void in the academic community, but his enduring legacy will continue to shape our understanding of history and inspire future generations. His legacy also lives on with the Ph.D. and other students that benefited from his guidance and mentorship.
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(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.