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Melikians boost ASU's global engagement

February 05, 2007

ASU's commitment to global engagement received a major boost in the form of a $1 million contribution by two longtime Phoenix civic leaders and philanthropists: Gregory Melikian and his wife, Emma Ordjanian Melikian.

Their gift will fund the expansion of international programming at the university's Russian and East European Studies Center, a unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that will be renamed the Melikian Center in recognition of the university's partnership with the couple.

The center's programming features the internationally recognized Critical Languages Institute, which offers intensive instruction every summer in less-commonly taught languages of Eastern Europe and Eurasia , including Armenian, Albanian, Macedonian, Tatar and Uzbek. The center's strategic partnerships with major universities of the region – notably its linkages with Yerevan State University, Moscow State University, the University of Sarajevo, Ss. Kiril and Metodij University (Macedonia) and the University of Pristina – have been supported by grants from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“This major contribution from the Melikians brings the study of Eurasia and Eastern Europe into ASU's wider scope of global engagement that already includes important programming in China and Mexico,” says ASU President Michael Crow. “Programs like these are at the heart of ASU's global engagement efforts.”

In 2001, an endowment from the couple led to the creation of the Melikian Fund, which supports the study of Armenian language and culture at ASU. In announcing this recent $1 million gift, center director and ASU professor Stephen Batalden says the Melikians' generosity will make a difference in the lives of students and faculty, a difference that often has transformative results.

“At a time when the geopolitical significance of the Eurasian Islamic rim has never been greater, this gift from the Melikians will offer students at ASU a unique research and language training opportunity for the 21st century,” Batalden says.

In commenting on the growing importance to understand the history, language and culture of Eurasia and Eastern Europe, Gregory Melikian says: “What better way to communicate than to speak each other's language? These are critical languages, and there is a critical need in the world today for people who can speak these languages fluently.”

The Melikians are of Armenian descent, and between them they speak numerous languages, including Russian and Armenian.

“Our world is shrinking,” notes Emma Melikian. “And to understand all people of the world – and participate in global engagement – our future generation has to speak critical languages and know history to help America in the world arena.”

This latest gift by the Melikians follows a history of commitment and giving to ASU. In addition to the creation of the Melikian Fund, Gregory Melikian has donated to the university's Special Collections eight World War II dispatches, including a copy of the message sent by Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower announcing the end of World War II in Europe . Melikian, an Army Signal Corps sergeant at the time, was tasked with sending the original high-speed radio transmission of the message, a copy of which he saved in plain text on a Signal Corps form.

Gregory Melikian, who says with a chuckle that, as a senior citizen, he always has admired longevity, began his long-term relationship with ASU in the 1970s, while serving on the board of the Friends of Eight, a volunteer organization at the university's PBS-affiliated television station Eight.

The Melikians are owners of the historic Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix and have been generous supporters of education and the arts in Arizona . Gregory Melikian has been a board member of the Phoenix Symphony and served as president of the Arizona Opera Company. Emma Ordjanian Melikian has served on the board of the Asian Arts Council of the Phoenix Art Museum . She is the founding president of the Thank You America Foundation, an organization in support of educational opportunities for homeless and abused children of Arizona . For that, she has received the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge in 1999, the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Alpha Delta Kappa Woman of Distinguished Award in 2002. She also has been active in the National Society of Arts and Letters for more than 20 years.

Additionally, the Melikians are among the original donors to the Armenian Cultural Center in Scottsdale. Their three sons and a daughter – Robert, Richard, James and Ramona – have attended ASU.

More information about the Melikian Center and ASU's Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies program is available at (480) 965-4188 or online at (