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 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