On the Central Board of Directors of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) (current 2002) Representative from the United States.
USC Armenian Institute Gala Honors Judge Tevrizian and Raises $700,000
By Eva Emerson
The USC Institute of Armenian Studies hosted a gala banquet on Oct. 2 to honor federal judge and USC alumnus Dickran M. Tevrizian Jr. for 32 years of public service. Tevrizian was the first Armenian-American to be appointed to the U.S. federal bench.
The evening marked the second community event organized by the USC Institute of Armenian Studies which was launched by USC College in February, and raised an estimated $700,000 in new gifts for the institute's endowment, which now totals $1.5 million. With a broad mission to increase understanding of modern Armenia and Armenians, the institute is envisioned as a multidisciplinary center of research and learning that will respond to the needs of the Armenian community.
The institute is the first academic center of its kind, said Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College. Created in close partnership with the local Armenian community, it also represents a model for a new, more collaborative and responsive kind of town-and-gown relationship.
Dean Aoun was among the 25 speakers, including former Gov. George Deukmejian, who saluted Tevrizian as an outstanding jurist and community leader during the evening's program. Aoun called Tevrizian one of USC's most distinguished alumni and thanked him for his early support of the institute.
Close to 850 guests gathered at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City to celebrate Tevrizian as he assumed the new status of Senior U.S. District Judge. Attendees included Tevrizian's USC fraternity brothers, professional colleagues, distinguished public figures, religious leaders, family, friends and admirers, including more than 200 of his current and former law clerks and externs.
Providing plenty of accolades - and good-natured ribbing about his fierce loyalty to the USC football team and his matchmaking prowess - speakers praised Tevrizian's accomplishments as well as his integrity, fairness and deep commitment to mentoring young lawyers. Speakers included luminaries in law and business such as Edward Roski Jr., USC trustee and CEO of Majestic Realty Co.; Ronald Tutor, USC trustee and president and CEO of Tutor-Saliba Corp., a leading construction firm; Kinko's founder and USC alumnus Paul Orfalea; and Armand Arabian, a former member of state supreme court. USC Trustees Stanley Gold, John F. King and Alfred Mann attended the banquet, as did former Gov. Pete Wilson, Sheriff Lee Baca, USC Athletics' Mike Garrett, and a long list of prominent attorneys and judges. During the evening, Tevrizian was awarded a Medal of Honor from the Armenian Apostolic Church. A letter from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulating Tevrizian was included in the program.
Decades of Service
Tevrizian began his judicial career at age 31, when then-Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1972, making him the youngest judge ever appointed to the judiciary at that time. Six years later, Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. elevated him to a post on the California State Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles. In 1982, Tevrizian returned to private law practice until 1986, when President Ronald Reagan selected him to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Tevrizian graduated cum laude from USC with a B.S. in finance in 1962, before attending USC Law School. After earning his law degree, he joined and became a partner in the law firm of Kirtland and Packard. Later, he was a partner in the law firm of Mannet, Phelps, Rothenberg and Tunney and Of Counsel to the law firm of Lewis, D'Amato, Brisbois & Bisgaard.
He has received many awards, including: being named Trial Judge of the Year by the California Trial Lawyers Association in 1987; the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award in 1999; the Maynard Toll award from the L.A. County Bar Association for his service to the underprivileged in 2002; and the Emil Gumpert Award for his efforts in promoting alternate dispute resolution in 2005.
In 1997, Tevrizian joined a delegation of distinguished U.S. jurists led by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to visit the newly independent Armenian Republic to assist in the development of a democratic legal system. Last month, he returned to Armenia with several members of the institute, where he met with the Armenian pontiff Karekin II and government officials.
Awakening a Sleeping Giant
Ever since the establishment of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, its director, Richard Hrair Dekmejian, has received a flurry of calls about possible events and projects. It seems, he said, that the institute is an idea whose time had come.
"We have awakened a sleeping giant," said Dekmejian, a professor of political science in the College. "We've had call after call - one group is interested in hosting a symposium on economic development in Armenia, one's interested in Armenian classical music and another in the music of the Armenian church."
The institute aims to promote Armenian-related scholarship and activities in a wide range of fields, from dance, music and the arts to politics, religion and community affairs. Addressing concerns of the community will be a top priority.
A key purpose of the institute in Tevrizian's eyes is to focus on the next generation, connecting Armenian-American students with internships, scholarships, advisors and professional mentors. His hopes for the nascent institute, Tevrizian said, is to create a "home" for young Armenian-Americans at USC.
"The impact of this institute will extend far beyond USC," said dean Aoun, a key architect of the institute. "It will help the world to understand the many contributions of Armenians to society, as well as to remind them of the tragic history of the Armenian people."
At the gala celebrating the institute's launch in February, the enthusiasm of the Armenian-American community for the institute was evident. Among the 575 guests attending was a virtual "Who's Who?" of the community, including Judge Tevrizian, USC Trustee Roski and Gerald Papazian, College alumnus and member of the College Board of Councilors.
In June, the institute co-hosted a well-attended symposium and lunch in conjunction with a visit by His Holiness Karekin II. Event speakers explored the impact of globalization on the Armenian church and related themes.
On Oct. 15, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies will host an all-day, public conference entitled "The Christian Response to Violence." Speakers, including the visiting church leader Catholicos Aram I, will examine violence from the micro-level - in families, gangs and schools - all the way up to terrorism and genocide.
For more information about the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, call 213-821-3943 or email: armenian @ college.usc.edu.
California Courier Online, October 13, 2005