Gerard Cafesjian

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Gerard_Cafesjian&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Gerard Cafesjian Mars symbol.svg
Source: Armenian Reporter
Birthplace Brooklyn
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Birth date 26 April 1925
Lived in Brooklyn, New York, St. Paul, Naples (Florida)
Resides in Naples (Florida)
Death date 2013/09/15
Death year 2013
Education Hunter College, St. John's University
Ethnicities Armenian
Spouses Cleo Cafesjian
Children Gerard Cafesjian Jr., Kathleen Baradaran, Thomas Cafesjian

Mr. Gerard L. Cafesjian, entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, USA in 1925. Following his discharge from the United States Navy after serving in the Pacific and the Atlantic in World War II, he received his BA in Economics and his JD in Law. In 1952 he began a stellar career with West Publishing, the world’s foremost supplier of legal information. He started out in New York as a legal editor. In 1960, Mr. Cafesjian moved to Minnesota to take a position at West’s headquarters. He rose through the ranks, becoming head of advertising, then Vice President of Marketing, then adding the title of Vice President of Sales, Electronic Retrieval and Government Relations, and eventually Executive Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors.

During his 44 years with West Publishing, Mr. Cafesjian helped the company grow from 2000 employees to 6500 employees. He also conceived of and successfully ran West Art and the Law, a nationally recognized, juried annual art show, for which he was awarded the prestigious Business and the Arts Award, generally the domain of much larger corporations such as Phillip Morris. He sold his shareholder interest in West in June of 1996 when West Publishing was acquired for $3.4 billion by the Thomson Corporation, and he retired from West Publishing shortly after the sale. Mr. Cafesjian currently spends the majority of his time managing his personal investments and pursuing charitable interests.

Mr. Cafesjian’s philanthropic efforts are primarily focused on supporting Armenian causes. Armenian History is both proud and tragic, a powerful story of resilience and survival. The Genocide had a profound impact on Mr. Cafesjian and his family. As a child, he always wondered why he had no relatives. His father, Levon Cafesjian from Sivas, lost his parents and all of his brothers and sisters during the Genocide. When his father married his mother, Nora Tashjian from Constantinople, she had already been twice widowed.

In 1996, in honor of his heritage and reflecting his pride as an American of Armenian descent, Mr. Cafesjian founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation. Stated broadly, the mission of the Foundation is to promote the well being of Armenian's. The Cafesjian Family Foundation endeavors to support efforts of the Armenian people to move beyond the tragedy of the Genocide and continue on in their role as significant contributors to the well being and advancement of humankind. To date Mr. Cafesjian has contributed over $50 million to the Cafesjian Family Foundation for the purpose of aiding Armenia and Armenian causes. “After taking care of the needs of my family, the bulk of my remaining estate will also be directed to the Foundation to support Armenian causes,” pledges Mr. Cafesjian. The Cafesjian Family Foundation has made significant contributions towards the formation of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial in Washington D.C. and Mr. Cafesjian sits on the Board of Trustees as this significant undertaking is realized. Since its inception, the Cafesjian Family Foundation has made grants to several Armenian organizations. Recipients include: the Armenian Assembly of America, Inc., in support of various Armenian advocacy programs; the Armenian General Benevolent Union in support of the American University of Armenia, soup kitchens, and various other special projects; the Armenia Fund USA, Inc., in support of the Vanadzor School and the Nagorno-Karabagh north-south highway; and the Ani and Narod Memorial Fund in support of vaccines for children and the Narod Network Project, a computer/internet based project linking Armenian students around the world.

The Cafesjian Family Foundation has also initiated Foundation sponsored programs in Armenia with the goal of fostering jobs and sustainable economic activity for the development and implementation of programs in renewable energy, media, financial services, real estate development, computer software, and telecommunications. Mr. Cafesjian has traveled to Armenia to meet with the President of Armenia, the President of Nagorno-Karabagh, and other senior government and community leaders to foster continued cooperation in building relationships between Armenia and the Diaspora. “We have to concern ourselves with Armenia,” says Mr. Cafesjian, “they are holding on by a thread. It is our duty in the Diaspora to help them, to look out for them and to make sure that the ties between the U.S. and Armenia are strong. I am dedicating my resources to that end.”

In addition to his work through the Foundation, Mr. Cafesjian has provided support to numerous special projects. One of Mr. Cafesjian’s first projects was the preservation of the historic State Fair carousel in St. Paul, Minnesota. His leadership and a significant donation saved the carousel, which was already being dismantled, from being broken up and sold at auction. The carousel, now fully restored and newly housed, bears his name. More recently, Mr. Cafesjian helped to finance the museum expansion of the Scottsdale, Arizona Center for the Arts. The Gerard L. Cafesjian Pavilion at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art had its grand opening in February of 1999. Mr. Cafesjian has loaned the museum much of his personal art collection, making it possible for thousands to view many rare glass pieces from around the world and to share in his pleasure of glass.

In addition to the time spent administering the programs in the Cafesjian Family Foundation, Mr. Cafesjian also runs several business ventures. He is partner in a group of restaurants with operations in Florida and Minnesota. The restaurant group includes: Campiello, with three large, high-quality, full service Italian restaurants; D’Amico & Sons, consisting of twelve smaller, modern, Italian deli-style restaurants; and D’Amico Catering, Minnesota’s leading upscale catering company. He is also involved in Heartland Juice Company, a regional partner and operator of Jamba Juice, the world’s leading juice bar company. Mr. Cafesjian is active in real estate investment with projects in Florida and Minnesota, and he has investments in wineries in Italy and Hungary.

Gerry Cafesjian is married to Cleo, whom he met during World War II when she was a nurse and he was serving in the Navy. While in the Navy, he was on active duty in the Atlantic on the destroyer escort USS Andres and duty in the South Pacific aboard the USS Oceanographer. The Cafesjian’s have two children, Kathy and Tom, and a grandchild, Carrie.

Mr. Cafesjian received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Hunter College in New York City and a JD degree from St. Johns Law school. He is a member of the New York Bar, the United States Supreme Court Bar, and the Supreme Court of Samoa. He has served on the Board of Directors of many business and non-profit institutions, including West Publishing Company, Hudson Products, United Hospital, University of Minnesota Museum of Art, Minnesota Museum of Art and Our Fair Carousel.

The Cafesjian Museum Foundation was established to build a world class museum to house Cafesjian's art in central Yerevan.


In Memorium: Gerard L. Cafesjian

Minneapolis - Gerard Leon Cafesjian was a remarkable man. Born in Brooklyn, New York on April 26, 1925 to Armenian immigrant parents, Gerard fought in a war, made a fortune, saved a carousel and founded a magnificent Center for the Arts in his ancestral home, Armenia.

After graduating from New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, New York (later the setting for the TV show "Welcome Back Kotter"), Gerard joined the U.S. Navy and fought bravely in the South Pacific During World War II. He met Cleo Thomas in 1946 In New York City; they were both in uniform - he in his sailor blues, she in her nursing whites. They married on July 4, 1947.

Gerard attended Hunter College and later St. Johns Law School, courtesy of the G.I. Bill. After practicing law in New York City for several years, Gerard joined the editorial staff of legal publishing company Edward J. Thompson. In 1960 Gerard and his family moved to St Paul Minnesota where he began his long and distinguished career at West Publishing Company. As Sr. Vice President of Marketing, Advertising and West Law, he helped usher in the age of computerized legal research. As one of the owners of the privately held company, he amassed a fortune upon its sale to Thompson Corp. in 1996.

In 1988 he donated one million dollars to prevent the dismantling and sale of the historic State Fair Carousel which now bears his name. In 2000, he donated an additional sum to construct the building in Como Park where it is now housed and enjoyed by thousands each year.

As a passionate and life long art collector, one of Gerard's greatest achievements was to create the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, Armenia. Housed in a unique, ziggurat-style structure called the Cascade, the Center is a hub for both visual and performing arts and contains works by world renowned artists such as Dale Chihuly, Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, Pablo Picasso, Arshile Gorky, Jaume Plensa and others. The Center also boasts a sculpture garden containing works by artists such as Fernando Botero, Lynn Chadwick, Barry Flanagan and others.

A fighter all his life, Gerard was finally dealt a blow from which he could not recover when his beloved wife of 66 years passed away in March of this year. Cleo Cafesjian was as vital to him as the beat of his own heart and without her, broken hearted; he departed this world on September 15, 2013.

Gerard was pre-deceased by his parents, Nora Tashjian and Levon Cafesjian, by his son Gerard Cafesjian Jr. and by his beloved wife, Cleo Thomas Cafesjian. He is survived by his sister Mary Dobbs, his daughter Kathleen Baradaran (Jaff Baradaran), his son Thomas Cafesjian, his Granddaughter Carrie Martinson (Ben Jones) and his three Great-Grandsons, Sam, Eli and Jack.

No Memorial or funeral service has been scheduled. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Cafesjian Museum Foundation, Inc. 15 South 5th Street Suite 900 Minneapolis MN 55402.

Published: Wednesday September 18, 2013

Benefactor Gerard Cafesjian Dies at 88

September 17th, 2013

Gerard Cafesjian

ST. PAUL, Minn.—Gerard Cafesjian, a prominent Armenian benefactor, has died aged 88. The information was confirmed by the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan.

Gerard Leon Cafesjian was a businessman and philanthropist who founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation (CFF), the Cafesjian Museum Foundation (CMF) and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.

Cafesjian was born April 26, 1925 in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His parents had come to the United States preceding the Armenian Genocide by the Turks in 1915.

He served in the United States Navy during World War II aboard JP Morgan’s yacht, the Corsair III, built in 1895 and renamed the USS Oceanographer. The ship did extensive survey work in and around Guadalcanal and other Solomon Islands. He also served aboard the USS Andres (DE45), a destroyer escort for convoys from the United States to North Africa.

He began his career with West Publishing as a legal editor in New York City. He was the first employee in the history of the 100-year-old company to be transferred from any subsidiary company into the home office in St. Paul, Minnesota. At West Publishing he rose through the ranks to the position of executive vice president; overseeing sales, marketing, customer service, public relations, all Westlaw office training and development. At West, he also conceived of and started the West Legal Directory and a well-known program, “Art and the Law”, which earned he and West numerous awards.

Cafesjian retired from West Publishing when it was sold to Thompson Publishing in 1996. He felt his destiny was to help the country of Armenia, which had gained its independence after hundreds of years of subjugation under various rulers. The time and circumstances and confluence of resources would help him make a difference for the country.

Cafesjian established the Cafesjian Family Foundation. Through that Foundation he devoted millions of dollars to Armenia on relief projects including renewable energy, headed a TV station, ran a newspaper, contributed to the clearing of land mines by specially trained dogs, founded a bank, insurance company, and supplied the resources for many other projects.

He received accolades and recognition from both the United States and Armenian institutions, including the Ellis Island Award in 2000.

Cafesjian completely renovated the Cascade site in downtown Yerevan. The Cascade was a huge old crumbling Soviet structure of epic proportions. He opened the Cafesjian Center for the Arts at the Cascade in 2009. The Museum enjoys a world-class sculpture garden with works by Botero, Flanagan, Chadwick, Plensa and Lalanne, to name a few.

Cafesjian also assembled a group of properties in Washington, D.C., two blocks from the White House. The intention is the building of an Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, but due to continuing litigation, the project remains unrealized and still in limbo awaiting the outcome for still another time killing appeal.

Gerard Cafesjian, philanthropist and Como carousel namesake, dies

By Elizabeth Mohr


Gerard Leon Cafesjian, the benefactor who helped save the famed Como Park carousel, has passed away, according to Armenian news reports.

Cafesjian amassed his wealth as an executive at West Publishing, where he worked from 1952 until 1996. His philanthropic pursuits went well beyond the salvage and restoration of the Cafesjian Carousel, as it's now known. He also founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the Cafesjian Museum Foundation and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.

Cafesjian, 88, formerly of Roseville, had retired and was living in Naples, Fla.

Messages for family members were not immediately returned Tuesday. Cafesjian's attorney said he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the family. A woman who answered the phone at the Cafesjian Family Foundation said no one there was taking media calls.

Several Armenian news outlets were reporting Cafesjian's death Tuesday. Some said Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan had issued a message of condolence to Cafesjian's family.

Cafesjian was born in 1925 in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Armenian parents who immigrated to the United States in 1915, according to a biography on the Cafesjian Center for the Arts website. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later earned a degree in economics from Hunter College and a law degree from St. John's University Law School. He began working for West Publishing in New York City and later was transferred to the St. Paul office.

In 1988, Cafesjian led an effort to save a 1914 merry-go-round that had spun at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for 75 years. He and others contributed more than $2 million to save the 68-horse carousel from being broken up and auctioned off.

The Cafesjian Carousel, which was named in honor of its major benefactor, was restored and initially installed in Town Square in downtown St. Paul.

"I knew it was worth saving and had to be saved," Cafesjian told the Pioneer Press in 1990, just days before the refurbished carousel was set to make its public debut. "We can all be proud of the way everybody got behind it."

When the carousel was unveiled, Cafesjian reportedly bought 100 tickets to give away to children who wanted to ride it and sat on a park bench to observe the event.

"I can't think of getting more pleasure per dollar than what I've gotten already," Cafesjian said at the time.

The carousel was moved to storage in 1996 and found its permanent home in Como Park in 2000.

Through his philanthropic organizations, Cafesjian sought to bring economic relief and artistic venues to Armenia and to promote Armenian art and history to the rest of the world.

He was most recently mentioned in local news in August when one of his former employees was indicted on federal fraud charges, accused of embezzling millions of dollars from Cafesjian and his companies.

Cafesjian's wife, Cleo, died in March. The couple met during WWII and were married in July 1947. At the time of Cleo's death, they had two adult children, one granddaughter and three great-grandchildren.