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Knights Of Vartan Holds 95th Convocation

LAS VEGAS - On July 10-13, the members of the Knights of Vartan
delegates from all over United State and Canada gathered here for
their 95th annual convocation, which took place at Harrah's Hotel,
organized by Knights and Daughters of Vartan chapters of Fresno,

During the convocation, which also marked the gathering of the
Daughters of Vartan, a new Grand Council was elected. The members are
Grand Commander Nigoghos Atinizian II, Nelson Stepanian, Armen
Mahserejian, Michael Guleserian, Robert Avakian, Kevork Marashlian and
Jean-Jacques Hajjar.

Since its founding in 1916, the brotherhood has donated millions of
dollars to various Armenian organizations in the diaspora, as well as
specific programs in Armenia and Karabagh, and its members have been
mentors in, leaders of and volunteers at all Armenian churches,
charities and organizations, working in a unified fashion for the
benefit of the greater community all over United States.

The members of the Fresno brotherhood organized the four-day
convocation in Las Vegas.

The flagship event of the convocation was the establishment of a new
lodge in Las Vegas. There is a growing Armenian community in that
city, with three churches and several organizations starting chapters

The convocation re-elected Nigoghos Atinizian II as Grand Commander of
Knights of Vartan. During his speeches at the convocation, Atinizian
stressed the importance of the role the Knights and Daughters play in
the community and urged for the recruitment of young members to fully
serve its mission. Said Atinizian, `I have found an overwhelming
commitment to the mission and purposes to the Knights of Vartan -
putting territorial issues aside - most of the lodges are having a
unique impact on their community and making their presence known and
respected. However, much work needs to be done. We must be more
ambitious in selecting members of our community to join the
Knights. The Knights must be perceived as a cadre of focused men of
high integrity and dedication to the Armenian cause. While making the
Knights more inclusive and recruiting new members, regardless of their
social or economic standing in the community, we must also be first in
raising the bar and selecting men of high character and integrity, who
understand not only the privileges of membership but also the
responsibilities inherent in that membership.'

He continued, `We must be more astute in reaching out to members that
have perhaps not been consulted and have not been called to
participate and we must use the modern methods of electronic
communications and social media to communicate with all members, so
that these members immediately know what their lodges are up to and
what specific time commitments and resources are required to implement
the projects and programs of the lodge.' Atinizian noted that he has
been a Knight for 13 years and relishes the `positive outlook' of the

Many programs and activities were planned for the visiting Knights and
Daughters, including tours of the Hoover Dam and the Mob Museum.
There was also a Kef Night Las Vegas on Friday night, with music by
Richard Hagopian and a grand banquet on Saturday night featuring the
Knights' Man of the Year, Mark Geragos.

In addition to the lighthearted activities, the Knights and Daughters
held workshops on how to maximize their effectiveness through online
outreach as well as specific subcommittees that had been formed. One
of them had been formed earlier in the year, called ALIP or Armenian
Leadership Project, which will help college and university students to
find jobs in their specialties. Hajjar is going to be the point person
for this effort.

`At its core it is a youth development program with a national
scope. The objective is to engage the youth in the community, namely
the 17 to 27 year olds, through a variety of programs and services,'
explained Hajjar. `

These include but are not limited to the following programs: home away
from home [welcome out of town youth into local Armenian community],
academic/professional counseling as well as networking and mentorship
initiatives. These may originate at the local Knights of Vartan and
Daughters of Vartan chapters, respectively, but broadened nationwide
through the extended national membership.'

He continued, `There is consensus among the brothers and sisters that
the only way to preserve the community is to invest in its
youth. This, we trust, will be driving force behind this project.'

Hajjar was happy with the convocation. `The Grand Convocation was very
well attended. Two days of meeting saw a lot of debates on both the
internal operations of the organization as well as its community
outreach mission.

There was an additional day spend on workshops which were focused on
new programs and also improvement initiatives. The venue, which as
you well know was Las Vegas, added to the excitement and vigor of all
the participants.' Knight Ken Nahigian was delighted with the
direction of the convocation and said it was well-organized. `I
thought the meetings were very well done.

We are working toward finding a new purpose for the Knights,' Nahigian
said. He explained that for the past 95 years or so since the founding
of the Knights of Vartan in the US, the goal has been solidifying the
Armenian-American community. `We have achieved that,' he said. `Now
we are focused and energized on new ways of serving the Armenian

Among those new ways, he said, is helping the Armenian-Americans get
together socially and `helping them in any way possible.'

One of the organizations that the Knights and Daughters are supporting
is Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP), based in
Connecticut. The program supports orphans in Armenia. Nahigian's
chapter, in Providence, RI, has supported a child through CASP for
many years. In fact, the child just reached the age of 18 and the
lodge is supporting a new child in an orphanage.

Nahigian said that the organization is not only initiating programs
for the betterment of Armenians in the US, Armenia and Artsakh, but
also encouraged individual members to `supply the people power to
support other organizations as well. We can be the unsung heroes of
the Armenian community, even if we don't get the recognition.'

Nahigian is a third-generation Knight. His grandfather, the late
Thomas Nahigian, was a Knight in the Providence chapter, as is his
father, Leon Nahigian.

New Daughters of Vartan Board

Lisa Kradjian, the newly-elected Grand Matron, or the leader of the
Daughters of Vartan, replacing Agnes Sahagian, was thrilled with her

`I have attended the convocations for 10 years now, and they are
always an opportunity to create lifelong friendships, to hear the
ideas and activities of fellow members and chapters across the county
and to be reinvigorated culturally, spiritually, emotionally. We look
forward to it every year,' she said.

The new members of the Grand Council of the Daughters of Vartan in
addition to Kradjian are Naira Serobyan, Sonia Serpekian, Marilou
Gostanian, Tanya Yerevanian, Renata Sahagian and Anahit Antonyan, all
from the San Diego chapter.

There are 22 Daughters of Vartan chapters around the US, and most of
them had representation at the convocation, Kradjian noted.

Kradjian is excited about the organization and exhorts all Armenian
men and women to consider joining the Knights or Daughters. Among her
many reasons for joining, she said, is that it is a thrill `to be part
of an organization that is passionate about developing leaders,
sustaining our heritage, cultivating friendships and assisting our
people in the US, Armenia and around the world. Some might say that
many Armenian organizations do this, but none do it with the mix of
educational, spiritual and cultural activity that the Knights and
Daughters of Vartan offer. And it is still the only Armenian
organization I know where I have experienced true Armenian unity -
Armenians from all the different church and political backgrounds, all
ages from 20s to 80s, and from all countries of origin, and also some
non-Armenians, all participating.'

Mark Geragos Speaks

Famed attorney Mark Geragos was the speaker at the main banquet on
Saturday night, at which time he received the Knights' Man of the Year

Geragos spoke about his involvement in community affairs, such as the
annual Armenia Fund telethon. He also discussed his rebuttal to the
claims about the involvement of Armenians made by the alleged Boston
Marathon bombers' uncle on CNN.

His talk was a hit with the Knights and Daughters. Atinizian said he
was ` a great speaker who really inspired the people attending the
convocation with his wit and wonderful stories.'

Added Kradjian, `He is always an engaging speaker and person. My
family has known him for many years. He has a myriad of stories from
his professional experience that are not only compelling but speak to
his ethics and passion for defending an individual [or a nation like
Armenia] from attack. He was well deserving of the Knights' Man of the
Year Award.'

One of the areas that the Knights are going to focus on is Armenian
border towns and impoverished areas. Said Kradjian, `During this
year's convocation I heard my first presentation on the situation in
the Tavush region and what is being done there. Past Matron Eva
Medzorian's film on the region's challenges was also quite moving. The
Knights and Daughters are passionate about supporting Armenian
charities - our members make contributions in the amount of seven
figures to a variety of charities around the world.'

At the dinner, the invocation was given by Rev. Yeghia Hairabedian of
St. Gregory the Illuminator in Fowler, Calif., also a Knight.

Introductions at the dinner were made by convocation co-chairs, Past
Commanders Steve Adams and Kevork Oflazian was master of
ceremonies. Welcoming remarks were made by co-chair Past Commander
Mark Der Matoian and Past Matron Roberta Hairabedian.

Grand Associate Commander Nelson Stepanian gave the scholarships
awards. Atinizian recognized and gave special rewards to the
following for their outstanding devotion to the brotherhood: Grand
District Representative Vicken Mouradian; Commander of Mamigonian
Lodge Ari Minnetian and Past Commander Gary Baboian of the
newly-formed lodge in Las Vegas.

At the banquet, music was performed by Lucine Zirekyants, soprano and
violinist, and her pianist, Daughters member Rouzan Vanesian.

While the latest convocation may just be over, plans are already
underway for next year's convocation, which will be held July 2-6,
2014 in San Diego.

`The San Diego Knights and Daughters of Vartan promises a wonderful
convocation at the Grand Hyatt downtown with some special new
additions: a Mixer for Young Professionals, and the first-ever
national Armenian Art Event to support the Armenian School Support
Project (to rebuild schools in Armenia with a World Bank 95/5 match)
and to feature Armenian artists from around the world,' said Kradjian,
whose chapter will co-host the 2014 Convocation. The Knights of
Vartan, along with its sister organization The Daughters of Vartan, is
a non-political, non-dominical Armenian fraternal organization founded
in 1916. For more information, visit