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4.10.12

Let's Honor Manoog Young by Continuing His Quest

Marc A. Mamigonian
 
The founding chairman of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Manoog S. Young, passed away July 3, 2012, a few months shy of his 95th birthday. He is mourned by his family and friends, recognizing that Manoog lived a productive, long life. He was a founder and the long-serving (1955-2001) board chairman of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).  
On Thursday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m., two days shy of what would have been Manoog's 95th birthday, NAASR will welcome all who wish to gather to remember and honor Manoog Young's life and work. We hope that the Armenian community will come and join with us in looking back, remembering and honoring a man who worked tirelessly towards worthy goals. In addition, a fund has been established in his name - because no one understood better than Manoog that nothing gets done without money. We hope that those who value the importance of Armenian Studies will give in order to make possible the continuation of that work - work that is never finished.
As NAASR's director of academic affairs, I acknowledge that I am not necessarily an objective voice on Manoog. He hired me back in 1998, for which I remain grateful. I worked directly for him for four years: I regard that as no small accomplishment, since he was, famously, not the easiest person in the world to work for. Some who read this will understand what this means; others can work it out for themselves.
Whether or not Manoog was easy to work for or with, there is no question of his unswerving dedication to the ideals and the goals of NAASR. These ideals and goals can be summarized as: Armenian history and culture in all its forms are subjects worthy of study not only by Armenians but also by the larger scholarly world; this work should be carried out at leading universities and colleges by top-level scholars; and that there is a need to support and disseminate to the wider public scholarship in Armenian Studies.
Manoog Young was not the first person to recognize these ideals or pursue these goals, nor was he alone in creating an entity, NAASR, that would lead to their institutionalization. The names of Richard N. Frye, who more than anyone else provided the catalyst to the creation of NAASR in the first place, and those of Thomas T. Amirian and Arra S. Avakian, who joined with Manoog as the first three founders of NAASR, especially must be remembered, as well as the other men and women who became founding members in 1955, not to mention all who served as volunteers, Board members and staff through the decades. But I think it was Manoog's tenacity that led to NAASR's success, the creation of the Harvard chair in Armenian studies and the establishment of other Armenian Studies chairs and programs in the US. Prof. Robert W. Thomson, who in 1969 became the first occupant of Harvard's Mashtots chair, wrote recently: "Programs of Armenian Studies are expanding like ripples in a pool, but the stone that caused those ripples was cast by Manoog Young. And these ever-widening ripples are now reaching successive generations."
Unfortunately, but inevitably, time passes and people forget things. (One might say it is precisely for that reason that there was a need for NAASR in the first place.) Manoog has passed on now. NAASR has existed for nearly 60 years. Numerous other Armenian chairs and programs have been established by various entities and philanthropic individuals. There are no longer so many people who remember that things have not always been as they are - that not so long ago there were no more than a handful of worthwhile books on Armenian subjects in English, that there were no Armenian chairs, there were not regular lectures by scholars and writers, there were not places to carry out research.
Manoog lived a long life: long enough to see NAASR make the transition to new leadership and the institution as well as the field of Armenian Studies develop and mature in ways that could not have been foreseen; and long enough to see the almost unimaginable achievements hoped for in NAASR's early days become facts of life and, indeed, taken for granted.
It may be that all that came to pass would have happened without Manoog Young. Maybe, but I doubt it. We are all beneficiaries of his hard work and dedication, and we all owe him and the other farsighted men and women who worked with him, an enormous debt. The debt cannot be repaid but by one way: by remembering and by carrying on the work.

"The Armenian Mirror-Spectator," September 29, 2012

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