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Melikian to receive 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Gregory Melikian to receive 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor
April 23, 2013

Gregory J. Melikian, the namesake and longtime benefactor of The Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies at Arizona State University, will be awarded a 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor award given by The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO), sponsor of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor. 

The 27th Annual Ellis Island Medals Of Honor ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 11 on Ellis Island, honoring leaders of entertainment, business, government, military, education, sports, media, health care and other dignitaries. The Medals of Honor ceremony will pay tribute to 90 American citizens of diverse ethnic origins whose influence and achievements inspire and touch the lives of people everywhere.

Melikian has a longstanding commitment to his community and nation. In WWII, he was a young 20-year-old sergeant with Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) headquartered in Versailles and Reims France in 1944-1945. He was a telegraph radio operator under the command of Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower. At 3:30 a.m. on May 7, 1945, it was Melikian who was chosen to announce to all military forces and world leaders, the unconditional surrender of Germany and the end of WWII in Europe.

After obtaining a law degree in 1948, he established a successful practice in New York City, specializing in real estate law. Melikian would eventually become a New York City Courts arbitration judge, but his true joy became the purchase and restoration of historic buildings. After buying his first building in 1951, he would go on to amass 32 properties by the time he retired from real estate in 1979.

After moving to Arizona in 1969, Gregory and his wife Emma Ordjanian Melikian helped the then small Armenian community build and establish The Armenian Community Center – Melikian Hall – of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Arizona.

Melikian has been a generous supporter of education and the arts in Arizona, serving as a board member of the Phoenix Symphony and President of the Arizona Opera Company in the 1980s.

In 2007, the Melikian's partnership with ASU and support was recognized with the naming of The Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The center’s programming includes the internationally recognized Critical Languages Institute, which offers intensive instruction in the less commonly taught languages of Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including Albanian, Armenian, Russian, Persian, Polish, Tatar, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Pashto and Hebrew. 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.

In 2008, ASU President Michael Crow presented the Melikians the University Medal of Excellence for their leadership and civic engagement. The University Medal of Excellence honors innovative leaders who have advanced awareness and action on issues that affect the well-being and positive development of their communities.

Melikian served as Honorary Commander of the 56th Fighter Wing and 944th Fighter Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona for which he is now retired.

In 2012, for his unique role as “The Man Who Ended WWII” in Europe, Melikian was inducted and bestowed as Chevalier (Knight) into the French Legion of Honor. He was recommended for this award, the highest decoration in France, by French President Francois Hollande.

“I am delighted and honored to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor,” said Melikian, when he was notified of his selection for the award. “It’s a testament to my Armenian immigrant parents who fled the Ottoman Empire and arrived on Ellis Island to start a new life for their family.” 

The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation's most prestigious awards. The medals are awarded annually to outstanding American citizens from all walks of life, who have distinguished themselves through their significant contributions to this country. Past medal recipients include six Presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, leaders of industry, artists and others whose work has made a lasting impact on humanity. Each year, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives officially recognize the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and list the recipients in the Congressional Record.