Knights and Daughters of Vartan Host Grand Convocation in Boston
Written by Asbed David Medzorian, Ararat Lodge No. 1, Boston, MA
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan held its Grand Convocation in Boston during the first week of July. Members from Lodges and Otyags across the United States were hosted this year by Ararat Lodge No. 1 and Arpie Otyag No. 9. The slogan for this year’s gathering was “Return to Ararat” because Ararat Lodge was the Knights of Vartan’s first Tahlij, founded on July 4th, 1916. Knights and Daughters began arriving as early as Monday, July 3rd, even though the Grand Convocation would not officially start until Thursday. The home for the 105th Avak Tahlij and the 83rd Kerakouyn Zhoghov was the Westin Waltham Boston Hotel, which overlooks Interstate 95 and is only a few miles from Boston’s historical and cultural sites. On Wednesday, July 5th, a group of Knights and Daughters and some spouses and friends saw some of the city’s famous sites up close as they enjoyed a Boston Harbor Cruise. The ninety-minute excursion took them past landmarks such as the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), the Italian North End and The Old North Church, The Bunker Hill Monument, and Spectacle Island, which Boston’s Big Dig Project transformed. The group also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial at Heritage Park and walked the labyrinth surrounding a small water fountain. Most of the group enjoyed an outdoor dinner at Legal Seafood before returning to the hotel.
The first official day of the Grand Convocation began with a workshop led by the leaders of the Call-to-Action Committee. Avak Ter-Sbarabed Levon Thorose joined Former Commanders Jake Bournazian and Garry Javizian in updating the Knights and Daughters of Vartan on efforts to help the 120-thousand Armenians who are living in Artsakh amidst a blockade by Azerbaijan that is now in its seventh month. To help publicize the plight of those in Artsakh and to seek international support, the Call-to-Action Committee commissioned two informational videos, which were shown to the Knights and Daughters on two occasions during the Grand Convocation.
The second workshop of the day, moderated by New England Grand District Representative Bob Avakian, was an interactive discussion focusing on efforts to recruit new members into The Knights of Vartan.
The Grand Convocation’s first social event was a reception Thursday evening in the hotel’s lounge, hosted by Avak Sbarabed Hunan Arshakian and Avak Dirouhie Gloria Korkoian.
The Knights and Daughters of Vartan got to business on Friday morning with official proceedings in their meeting rooms. In separate gatherings, delegates from each organization discussed and voted on measures and appropriations that would affect the Knights and Daughters of Vartan and the people they serve in the year ahead. It was not all business for members of The Daughters of Vartan, who spent mid-day on Friday holding their annual luncheon, featuring an 80th birthday celebration for Grand Chairwoman Gloria Korkoian. The ladies of Arpie Otyag in Boston and Tzouig Otyag in Merrimack Valley presented Avak Dirouhie Gloria which a large white birthday cake and an even larger birthday card signed by everyone who came to the gathering. That included Knights of Vartan Avak Sbarabed Hunan Arshakian, who stopped by briefly to offer birthday greetings and to thank his friend for her hard work and dedication in leading the Daughters of Vartan during the last two years. The party, however, wasn’t over yet. In her thank you remarks to her sisters in the Daughters of Vartan, Avak Dirouhie Gloria quoted the lyrics to the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield.
They began with the words, “I am unwritten. Can’t read my mind. I am undefined. I’m just beginning. The pen’s in my hand. The ending unplanned.” Unknown to the Avak Dirouhie, as she was reciting the lyrics, someone found a recording of the song and began playing it when she finished. Within moments, the function room became a dance floor as the Daughters got up from their seats and moved to the beat of the music.
The dancing would continue that night following the afternoon meetings. Vocalist Elie Berberian from Montreal and his band serenaded the Knights and Daughters, family members, and guests. He then picked up the tempo, and within moments, the dance floor, bathed in colored lights, was filled from one end to the other. It would stay that way for the rest of the evening.
The final day of the Grand Convocation was one of ceremony and festivity. Following the morning meetings, The Knights of Vartan were invited to join the Daughters and attend the Installation of the incoming Avak Dirouhie, Nancy Berberian Thompson, and her Avak Khorhout. The afternoon session began with a presentation by the Knights of Vartan Liaison Gohar Palyan, who had traveled from Yerevan for the occasion. Using visuals, she updated the membership of The Knights and Daughters of Vartan on the progress of some of their ongoing humanitarian projects in Armenia. The Liaison also gave the audience a glimpse and answered questions about the new interactive Knights and Daughters of Vartan website. The official activities concluded with installing the new Avak Tivan or Grand Council.
That evening, the 2023 Grand Convocation ended with a gala banquet in the Eden Vale Ballroom. Once the dignitaries at the head table were seated, Master of Ceremonies and Asbed David Medzorian introduced vocalist Alla Petrosyan, who sang the American and Armenian national anthems and two ballads later in the program. Following the invocation by Nakhgin Sbarabed Der Stephan Baljian of Arakadz Lodge, Grand Convocation Committee Chairman Nelson Stepanian introduced those at the head table. He then thanked the members of the committee who helped plan this year’s gathering. The tributes began with Nakhgin Avak Dirouhie Gloria Korkoian introducing this year’s Daughters of Vartan Woman of the Year; Eva Medzorian, Nakhgin Dirouhie of Arpie Otyag No. 9 in Boston. In her acceptance speech, read by her daughter, Ruth Medzorian Falletti of Arpie Otyag, Nakhgin Dirouhie Eva described herself as a lifelong activist whose appreciation of her Armenian heritage began very early. Eva Medzorian recalled how, during a visit to Armenia shortly after the 1988 earthquake, she was impressed by the women she met and their bravery and desire to contribute more to their communities. These conversations inspired Nakhgin Dirouhie Eva to form, with the help of two friends, The Armenian International Women’s Association. (A.I.W.A.) The Woman of the Year also praised her sisters in The Daughters of Vartan. Nakhgin Dirouhie Eva said the women with whom she has served over the years do not seek accolades or recognition. They desire to help and make a difference in the lives of their sisters and brothers in Armenia. Following her daughter’s speech reading, the Woman of the Year stepped to the microphone to sing one of her favorite ballads, “Hayasdan,” to a standing ovation.
Master of Ceremonies David Medzorian then read an acceptance letter from the Knights of Vartan Man of the Year, Professor Vartan Abdo, the Founder and Director of The Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey. In the letter, Professor Abdo said that the Knights of Vartan members should feel proud of their accomplishments and always look for young energies ready to serve the community. He concluded by saying that there was both strength and pride in unity. On Professor Abdo’s behalf, Grand Commander Hunan Arshakian presented the Man of the Year Award to Former Commander Hrant Gulian of Mamigonian Lodge No. 12 in Brooklyn, New York.
Mamigonian Lodge Nakhgin Sbarabed Tigran Sahakyan was honored with the St. Vartan Mamigonian Knight of the Year Award. As he was not present to receive his honor, Nakhgin Sbarabed Tigran’s award was accepted on his behalf by Mid-Atlantic Grand District Representative and Nakhgin Sbarabed Dr. Edward Sanossian. Nakhgin Avak Dirouhie Gloria Korkoian introduced her successor, Avak Dirouhie Nancy Berberian Thompson, who was installed in a ceremony earlier that day. After acknowledging her Grand Council or Avak Khorhourt, the new Avak Dirouhie promised to continue working on behalf of the Armenians of Artsakh. She also urged the Daughters of Vartan to support Armenian endeavors in the US, such as the Armenian-American Museum in Glendale, CA, Armenian Study Programs at various universities, and scholarship programs. Avak Dirouhie Nancy said that the aim of the Daughters of Vartan is not to survive but to thrive.
Knights of Vartan Avak Sbarabed Hunan Arshakian also acknowledged his Grand Council or Avak Tivan. He then described the Armenians living in Artsakh as a people hanging by a thread with no end date for their suffering. “1915 is happening right now in Artsakh”, he said. “It is a real ongoing genocide and pure ethnic cleansing.” Avak Sbarabed Hunan urged all Knights and Daughters of Vartan to raise awareness of the Armenians’ plight in Artsakh and contact their lawmakers and other persons of influence. He also encouraged the audience to support the work of The Knights and Daughters of Vartan Call-to-Action Committee. He said that Armenians worldwide need to put aside political and religious differences and work together.
The Grand Convocation Banquet concluded with a prayer by Der Vasken Kouzouian of Ararat Lodge in Boston. Master of Ceremonies David Medzorian thanked everyone for attending, and to the Knights and Daughters who will host the 2024 Grand Convocation, he said, “Fresno, we’ll see you next year.”
Here is the video recap of the event: https://l1nq.com/gEv8N