UConn: Armenian Studies Program planned with $500,000 bequest

University of Connecticut
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Armenian Studies Program planned with $500,000 bequest

# 04088
October 4, 2004


An Armenian studies program at the University of Connecticut will be
revived through a more than $500,000 gift from a former ENFIELD woman
who befriended several UConn faculty and staff in the 1980s.

Alice Norian, a graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University and
long-time Enfield elementary school teacher, happened upon UConn
during an exhibit of Armenian rugs and other artifacts in the early
1980s. She soon became friendly with Arppie Charkoudian, then director
of Jorgensen Auditorium, and Frank Stone, a professor in the School of
Education with a long standing interest in Armenia.

During the years, the friendships developed and Norian, who died in
1999 with no heirs, bequeathed $504,000 to UConn to jumpstart the
Norian Armenian Studies Program. The endowment created by Norian is
expected to be matched with $252,000 from the state.

Arman Kirakossian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United
States, on Sept. 24 kicked-off the new program during a 40-minute talk
to about 50 faculty, staff, students, and members of Connecticut’s
Armenian community, discussing the 13-year-old nation’s foreign
policy, economy, culture, and long partnership with the United
States. He praised America for the assistance it has provided Armenia
for a century, through wars, natural disasters, its declaration of
independence from the USSR in 1991, and during the genocide
perpetrated on the

country by the Ottoman Empire from 1894-1896. He also applauded
UConn’s School of Social Work which, through professor and former dean
Nancy Humphries, established a faculty-student exchange program with
Yerevan State University (YSU) in Armenia, and helped professors there
establish degree programs in social work.

“I am delighted that the University of Connecticut and the Yerevan
State University are collaborating in academic fields, and I am
particularly happy that it will lead to the development of an Armenian
studies program at the University of Connecticut,” Kirakossian
said. “I know the collaboration between the University’s School of
Social Work and its counterpart at YSU has been active for 15 years,
and I commend Dr. Nancy Humphreys for that. I am sure the new program
and the partnership project between the two universities will be of
great value to their students, faculty, and researchers.”

University President Philip Austin praised Norian for her “vision and
generosity,” and said the addition of an Armenian studies program
would be a boon to the University.

“We recognize that we need to expand our vision and encompass an
international focus” at UConn, Austin said. “There have been
international programs here throughout our modern history, many of
high quality. But in recent years we’ve made dramatic progress, most
notably in our partnership with the African National Congress in South
Africa, several programs in China, and others. The UConn-YSU
partnership promises to add a distinguished element to the list.

“I also have a sense that the story of the Armenian people is more
than just another part of human history. There are lessons here that
are truly applicable to all of us in the 21st Century — about the
pursuit of national identity, courage in the face of horrible
oppression, optimism, and the complexities of negotiating one’s way in
a world dominated by many competing forces,” he said.

Between 1987 and the mid-1990s, UConn offered a small Armenian studies
program, with several undergraduate courses, a lecture series and some
workshops. The program was supported through a fund-raising campaign
started by Stone and several others. But the money they raised was
expended and, when Stone retired in 1994, the formal program
ceased. But UConn’s involvement with Armenia did not.

Shortly after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Armenia became an
independent nation, and clearly struggled with social needs. Into that
breach stepped Humphries, who worked with Professor Ludmila
Haroutunian of Yerevan State University. Together, they built both
bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social work at YSU. That
program also involved faculty and student exchanges, which continue

A committee that includes Humphries has been formed to develop the new
American studies program, which will be interdisciplinary, involving
the School of Social Work, the Center for European Studies, and the
Office of International Affairs. It also will include an annual
lecture series, named after Norian.

Faculty involved in planning the new program hope to develop courses
on Armenian culture and history, expand exchanges between UConn and
YSU, and create publications that will help educate Americans about

Before joining UConn’s education faculty, Stone, who spearheaded the
first Armenian studies effort in Storrs, spent 16 years as a
missionary in Tarsus, Turkey, and he never lost his interest in
Armenia. In 1984, he and a small group of volunteers started a
fund-raising campaign that eventually raised about $70,000 to develop
the program, and an exhibit of Armenian rugs, paintings and sculpture
announced that the program had begun.

Eventually, UConn offered courses related to Armenia in Stamford,
Storrs, and West Hartford, and Stone began producing a newsletter,

“I think it’s wonderful that UConn’s program is moving forward again,”
said Stone, “There’s a large Armenian-American community in
Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and this program can be
popular and important.”