AMAA Mourns the Passing of Dr. Richard Hovannisian

Salutes His Great Legacy 

By Elise Kalfayan 

The Armenian Missionary Association of American (AMAA) mourns the passing of Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian, preeminent Armenian History scholar, author of the definitive history of the First Republic of Armenia, past long-time chair of the UCLA Modern Armenian Studies Program, and one of the founders of the Society for Armenian Studies.

Dr. Hovannisian personally inspired many leaders of the AMAA. He generously shared his knowledge and time, and supported projects and programs to equip the next generation of Armenian scholars, as well as community leaders, church leaders, and thousands of students who learned to appreciate and support their nation’s ongoing struggles for independence and self-determination.

Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian, Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council: “The death of Prof. Richard G. Hovannisian is a great loss to the Armenian Nation. He was an outstanding Armenian scholar, a valiant soldier in the pursuit of knowledge and truth and a powerful independent-minded intellectual.

“My friendship with Dr. Hovannisian goes back forty years. I have been greatly impressed by his scholarly books, breadth of knowledge, and passion and dedication to the cause and plight of the Armenian people. This visionary Armenian patriot never faltered in his beliefs, no matter what the course of events.

“Dr. Hovannisian wrote a congratulatory letter for the 170th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church, in which he wrote, ‘The Armenian Evangelical reformers were destined to become a part of the cultural and intellectual reformation that opened new vistas before the Armenian people in the 19th century… it was not by accident that focus would be on educational and other institutions that engendered enlightenment and benevolence, which bore rich fruit, and has now spread the world over.’ 

After a continuous service of more than six decades to Armenian education and Armenian studies, this dedicated Armenian intellectual has departed leaving behind a grateful multitude. Blessed be his memory.”

Dr. Ann Karagozian, Inaugural Director of The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA and past AMAA Board member: “Prof. Hovannisian’s vast research and knowledge of Armenian History and the Armenian Genocide is almost without peer.  At a UCLA Promise Armenian Institute event in April 2023, he described, extemporaneously and without notes, how dozens of missionaries found themselves as eyewitnesses to one of the greatest mass atrocities in history and provided critical eyewitness accounts on the Genocide for historians to have as evidence.  Richard spoke in great detail, and this was just a small piece of his encyclopedic knowledge of the Armenian Genocide in all of its facets. Armenian-Americans have lost a wonderful scholar and insightful friend in Richard Hovannisian.  I thank God for his presence in our lives and offer our deepest sympathies to his family.”

Dr. Mary Papazian, Haigazian University Trustee and past President, California State University San Jose: “Dr. Richard Hovannisian was an impactful and visionary leader who rightfully has been called the Dean of Armenian Studies. I remember him from my earliest years when my mom, Marilyn Arshagouni, edited his dissertation, Armenia on the Road to Independence, and the first two volumes of his magisterial four-volume history on the first Armenian Republic. I also had the opportunity to work with him as a student at UCLA many years ago. Together with my husband Dr. Dennis Papazian, Richard was a key driver in the development of many of the Armenian academic and community institutions, such as the Society for Armenian Studies, NAASR, and the Armenian Assembly. He also prepared several generations of Armenian scholars who earned their Ph.D.’s under his guidance and who have taken up his mantel and are developing the field into the future. As a trustee of Haigazian University, I have seen firsthand the impact of Dr. Hovannisian’s legacy on Haigazian’s outstanding Armenian Diaspora Research Center, as just one example. Richard was a pioneer, courageous, forward thinking, and determined. He has left a rich legacy and will be deeply missed.”

Bryan Agbabian, AMAA board member: “Professor Hovannisian helped to connect UCLA Armenian students, including myself, to our Armenian identity.  His classes in Ancient and Modern Armenian History gave us an appreciation for our roots. It made us more passionate about the importance of preserving our heritage and helping the Armenian people.”

The Armenian Evangelical community was greatly honored by Dr. Hovannisian’s presence at the October 2022 Armenian Cilicia Evangelical Church banquet in Pasadena, CA. He was invited and introduced by another of his former UCLA students, Doris Melkonian. Excerpts from Dr. Hovannisian’s keynote speech at that event give each of us a question and an answer:

“What is there to be said that is not already known? . . .Do we come to a point where we feel that we have to say the same thing over and over? . . . For more than 60 years, I’ve been advocating for teaching and understanding the Armenian Genocide, and year after year, I ask myself, am I sincere? I have come to a realization that yes, we need to repeat [the history], from generation to generation!”

AMAA Executive Director/CEO Zaven Khanjian: “As towering as Professor Richard Hovannisian’s presence on Armenian and international academic stage is with his unparalleled contribution to the study of the history of the First Armenian Republic and Armenian Genocide, he stands tall in his demeanor of exceptional modesty, humility, and humanism. We bow to the priceless legacy he leaves behind and pray and hope that he will serve as an outstanding role model to a multitude of upcoming Armenian youth among current and future generations.”

The entire AMAA community mourns the loss of Dr. Hovannisian, a pioneer who justly and brilliantly raised understanding and awareness of 20th century Armenian History and established the discipline of Armenian Studies worldwide. AMAA sends its sincere condolences to Dr. Hovannisian’s family, friends, colleagues, and former students.

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