CCNY remembers benefactor and friend Vartan Gregorian (1934-2021)

The City College of New York is mourning Vartan Gregorian, a distinguished member of the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership Board of Visitors, noted scholar, philanthropic leader, and president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He died last Thursday aged 87.  

“Vartan Gregorian was the consummate humanitarian and a great friend to the College,” said City College President Vincent Boudreau. “His staunch advocacy for the rights and interests of immigrants in society, in particular, struck a strong and resonant chord with our own mission.”

Of Gregorian’s support for the Colin Powell School, Boudreau said: “From the outset, he lent his wise counsel and great experience to the Colin Powell Center's Advisory Council and continued on as a cherished member of the Colin Powell School's Board of Visitors.  We will all miss him dearly and treasure the legacy of the time he spent with us.”

Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (ret.), a 1958 CCNY alumnus, remembered Gregorian fondly. “Vartan Gregorian was a very dear friend of mine. I had known him for decades. He always shared a smile and a warm story.  He was so proud of his immigrant background, but even prouder of his American citizenship.

"When we formed the Powell School at CCNY, I immediately called Vartan and asked him to serve on our board of visitors. He agreed and was a devoted member. We will never forget his charming presence and his devotion to the school.  I will never forget this dear person. Nor will the school.”

Colin Powell School Dean Andrew Rich hailed Gregorian, a long-time member of the School’s Board of Visitors, as “a luminary in the philanthropic world, with an unmatched intellect, a dedication to social change, and a deeply held commitment for bettering the lives of young people, not least those who shared his experience as immigrants. 

“Most recently, he was one of the first to step up with emergency aid for our students during this pandemic, giving both personally and through the Carnegie Corporation. As Dean of the Colin Powell School, I have benefited enormously from his mentorship. We will miss his creativity, wisdom, and kindness.”

Gregorian was the 12th president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant-making institution founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. During his tenure at the Corporation, Gregorian championed the causes of education and world peace, key concerns of Andrew Carnegie.

Prior to leading Carnegie, Gregorian served for nine years as the 16th president of Brown University.

He was born in Tabriz, Iran, of Armenian parents, receiving his elementary education in Iran and his secondary education in Lebanon. In 1956 he entered Stanford University, where he majored in history and the humanities, graduating with honors in 1958. He was awarded a PhD in history and humanities from Stanford in 1964.

 Gregorian taught European and Middle Eastern history at San Francisco State College, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Texas at Austin. In 1972 he joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty and was appointed Tarzian Professor of History and professor of South Asian history. He was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and four years later became its twenty-third provost until 1981.

For eight years (1981-1989), Gregorian served as a president of the New York Public Library, an institution with a network of four research libraries and eighty-three circulating libraries. He was appointed president of Brown University in 1989.

Gregorian was recipient of numerous honors. He received the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, from President Bush in 2004. He’d been awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Clinton in 1998.

Gregorian was the author of “The Road To Home: My Life And Times;” "Islam: A Mosaic, Not A Monolith;” and “The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan, 1880-1946.” 

About the City College of New York
Since 1847, The City College of New York has provided a high-quality and affordable education to generations of New Yorkers in a wide variety of disciplines. CCNY embraces its position at the forefront of social change. It is ranked #1 by the Harvard-based Opportunity Insights out of 369 selective public colleges in the United States on the overall mobility index. This measure reflects both access and outcomes, representing the likelihood that a student at CCNY can move up two or more income quintiles. In addition, the Center for World University Rankings places CCNY in the top 1.8% of universities worldwide in terms of academic excellence. Labor analytics firm Emsi puts at $1.9 billion CCNY’s annual economic impact on the regional economy (5 boroughs and 5 adjacent counties) and quantifies the “for dollar” return on investment to students, taxpayers and society. At City College, more than 16,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in eight schools and divisions, driven by significant funded research, creativity and scholarship. CCNY is as diverse, dynamic and visionary as New York City itself. View CCNY Media Kit.

Jay Mwamba
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