by Christian Garbis
June 29, 2012

On Fri., June 22 a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the site where
the new Khoren and Shooshanig Avedisian School will be constructed
in the Malatia-Sepastia district of Yerevan.

Edward Avedisian stands beside the architectural plan of the new
Avedisian School. (Photo by Christian Garbis) Among the numerous
guests present were principal Melania Geghamian, Armenian Missionary
Association of America (AMAA) vice-president Jeanmarie Papelian,
and AMAA Armenia deputy representative and operation manager Harout

The Avedisian School that stands today, which was donated by the
Armenian government and is operated by the AMAA, is outdated and in
partial disrepair. Rather than putting funding into renovations, the
school~Rs grantors, Edward and Pamela Avedisian, decided to build
an entirely new structure~Wa ~Sgreen~T building, the first of its
kind in Armenia. It will also carry LEED (Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design) certification, a widely implemented construction
standard in the U.S. The expansive plot of land on Arno Babajanian St.

in Sepastia was also donated to the AMAA in 2009 by the Armenian

Edward Avedisian is a former clarinetist for the Boston Pops and
Boston Ballet Orchestra turned investor and philanthropist. He is
also a trustee at the American University of Armenia (AUA) and is a
member of the AMAA board of directors. He and his wife have pledged
to donate $5 million towards the construction of the new school,
with another $5 slated to be raised by donors.

I had the opportunity to talk with Edward Avedisian before the start
of the ceremony. Below is the Q&A.

Christian Garbis: Please explain the importance of the school and
what differentiates it from others in Armenia, Yerevan in particular.

Edward Avedisian making a short speech, flanked by his wife Pamela
and Harout Nercessian. (Photo by Christian Garbis) Edward Avedisian:
The new school is scheduled to open in September 2014. As we can see
from the plan it looks quite different, and it is.

We are using new technologies; it will be sustainable in terms
of energy and we will use the wind, water, and different kinds of
insulation to make it more efficient. More importantly, this will
be the most earthquake resistant building in all of Armenia. Also,
because there~Rs so much interest in what will be a LEED building
with these new technologies, the structure under construction becomes
a laboratory. Architects and designers will come to see how these
efficiencies will be implemented.

The building will be positioned to make the most of efficiency from
natural sunlight, so that overhead lamps will not be necessary in the
day, with one side of the school to be made almost entirely of glass.

For students there will be a focus on renewable energy education.

Students of the Avedisian School. (Photo by Christian Garbis) The NST
Architecture Studio based in Yerevan conceived it with the enormous
help of Ronald Altoon of Altoon Partners in Los Angeles, who designed
the Paramaz Avedisian Building at AUA. So this is a cutting-edge
building. We need energy in Armenia and we~Rre going to hopefully be
producing so much energy during the summer when the school is closed
that we can push it back into the system and get credit for it.

C.G.: Can you tell me more abut the curriculum of the school?

E.A.: The curriculum of the school is government mandated. It
is a public school, to service the children in this area who are
particularly needy. We started here in 1999 in a very dilapidated
building. The government was kind enough to give us this land on a
99-year lease. We have grown from 75 students to over 300, and when
we finish here we~Rll have over 500 students.

C.G.: Why was this site chosen for the school?

E.A.: Well, it was available and it is close to the present school. It
is an expansive land that we thought we could use because beyond what
you see here [points to the right side of the building plan] is an
elementary school, so it~Rs a campus. There will be elementary, middle,
and high schools right here. On the top floor will be a glass enclosed
area, a conservatory, which will be a place for students to experiment
in environment studies about heat and light, how its diffused, and
how this building can be more efficient. Not only that, we don~Rt
want the building to be the last one. We hope that the building that
will subsequently be built will be better than this one. And here~Rs
where we start, here~Rs where we~Rre going to experiment. We know
what experiments we~Rre going to run, we know they~Rre good, and we
hope to prove it.

C.G.: So this will be a model for future schools, not only in Yerevan
but all over Armenia?

E.A.: Exactly. Not only that, we have very stringent and high standards
of accomplishment for students in this school. They are continually
winning prizes in competitions countrywide, two years in a row in
Russian-language competency with different teams. Also in 2010 we held
the first prize in French competency. The scores in math and sciences
are very, very high, so we~Rre pleased with the quality. The building
represents the quality of thought of the most advanced design. The kids
on the inside exemplify the most advanced quality of education. Our
teachers are excellent~Wall they need is a chance to teach. And we
need to bring to them a living wage. With that, there~Rs no problem.

Students place a time capsule containing a proclamation of the
school~Rs mission and objective into the ground. (Photo by Christian
Garbis) There~Rs a lot of tremendous teaching that can go on, and we
have the benefit of excellent teachers. We will not leave any child
behind and we will get them to

do the best they can. If for some reason they are not eligible to
go to a university, we will provide them with training in a field
of expertise to make a living. So we~Rre trying to cover the entire

In addition, as part of a long-range plan because of my connection with
AUA, any child that comes through this school starting at age three
can go through here without paying anything. He or she can proceed
and go to AUA the same way, without paying any money. If he or she
can pass the entrance exams, they~Rre accepted. So with the money
raised to fund their educations, a child can go from kindergarten
to getting a master~Rs and hopefully soon a doctoral degree, taught
right here in this country with the best teachers.

From: A. Papazian