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Melikian knighthood, vets recognized at 'Salute-to-Service' celebration

Emma and Gregory Melikian
November 14, 2012

When football players from Arizona State University and Washington State University met head-to-head on Nov. 17 at Sun Devil Stadium, another field of battle was remembered – World War II.

Gregory Melikian, the namesake and longtime benefactor of ASU’s Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, was honored along with all veterans who have served the nation, at the “Salute-to-Service” celebration as part of the game’s half-time events.  

In WWII, as a young sergeant with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces staff headquartered in France in 1945, Melikian was the telegraph operator under command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At 3:30 p.m. on May 7, 1945, it was Melikian who was chosen to announce the unconditional surrender of Germany and the end of WWII in Europe. The original 1945 copy of the telegraph was donated by the Melikians to the ASU Libraries. For his unique role, Melikian was recently inducted as Chevalier (Knight) into the French Legion of Honor. He was recommended for this award, the highest decoration in France, by French President Hollande.

"I am happy to accept this great honor from the President and the Republic of France," said Commander Melikian. "In honor of all veterans, particularly those that did not come home."

Accompanying Melikian onto the field on Nov. 17 were two undergraduates, Pascal Traylor, a sophomore in the Navy ROTC and kinesiology major in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, and Chelsea Bejines, a junior in Army ROTC and Exercise and Wellness major in the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. Both Traylor and Bejines have taken classes with the Melikian Center’s Critical Languages Institute and are members of the Global Officer (GO) Project. The ASU Melikian Center’s Project GO provides summer and academic-year training for members of the ROTC in Persian, Russian and Uzbek and is an initiative supported by the U.S. Department of Defense. Traylor is studying Persian, with summer study abroad in Uzbekistan. He will also spend the summer of 2013 abroad studying Advanced Persian with the Project GO. Chelsea was a 2012 Project Global Officer (GO) First-Year Uzbek student who spent part of the summer studying abroad in Uzbekistan. As Melikian Center Director Stephen Batalden commented, “There are few things that bring greater joy to Greg and Emma Melikian than to see the amazing academic and career success of students whose lives have been transformed by their international study in the Critical Languages Institute.”
In addition to his new status as Chevalier, Melikian is an Honorary Commander with Luke Air Force Base’s 56th and 944th Fighter Wings. Melikian’s wartime decorations include the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Meritorious Unit Award.  

The Melikian Center is a research unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and home to a range of projects that support critical language training and global engagement. Their research and training programs are funded by grants from the Departments of State, Defense, and Education, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development. In addition to Project GO, the center’s Critical Languages Institute offers intensive language training in the less commonly taught languages of Albanian, Armenian, Russian, Persian, Polish, Tatar, Ukrainian, Uzbek, and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. The Melikian Center also offers a baccalaureate certificate program in Russian and East European Studies. In addition, the center hosts the annual national orientation program for the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs, in association with the Institute for International Education. The center also supports undergraduate and graduate students by offering grant mentoring workshops for those hoping to study overseas in Europe and Eurasia with Fulbright International Educational Exchange, National Security Education Program (NSEP) Boren Fellowships or Gilman International Scholarship programs, among other activities. The center will host an international symposium on Feb. 7-9, 2013, titled “Post-Atheism: Religion, Society, and Culture in Post-Communist Eastern Europe and Eurasia.” Scholars will be coming to the ASU symposium from Bosnia, Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Poland, and Lithuania, as well as from institutions in the U.S. and Canada.
Most recently, the Melikian Center received $1.3 million from Higher Education for Development, a USAID funding agency for institutions of higher learning, to conduct a Women’s Leadership Project in Armenia. The project, “Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Armenia,” will be directed by Professors Victor Agadjanian from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Mary Margaret Fonow, director of the School of Social Transformation, and Stephen Batalden, director of the Melikian Center. 

Commander Melikian resides in Phoenix with his wife of 60 years, Emma. The owners of the historic Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, the couple is well known for their philanthropic efforts in education and the arts in Arizona. The Melikians’ four children have all attended Arizona State University.

To find out more about the Melikian Center, visit, or call 480-965-4188.