Hovsép Fidanian

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Hovsép Fidanian is a renowned scientist, businessmen and public figure.

His parents escaped Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey (1915-1923) and finding a refuge in Bulgaria. Hovsép was born on December 1, 1941, in the historic city of Plovdiv, a city originally named Phillipópolis in honor of its founder, Phillip (father of Alexander the Great), King of Macedonia.

His family lived in poverty because his father was an anti-communist. This political orientation would ultimately change the life of the Fidanián family and cause Hovsép to excel in everything he attempted.

When Hovsép was 18 years old, he was required to join the Bulgarian army, where he served as a corporal and played basketball for the national army team of Bulgaria. His service was extended by three additional months when the Berlin crisis erupted.

He was then accepted into the Chemico-Technological Institute in Sofia, Bulgaria, where he studied chemical engineering for two years.

Fortunately, his father had asked the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria for permission to emigrate in 1946, soon after the communists took over the government in 1944. In 1963, following an incredible odyssey of fighting the communist system, the family was given permission to move to Lebanon.

Because he knew French, Hovsép was hired as a draftsman to work for a Swiss-French conglomerate, building a dam on the Nahr River. Eventually, the American Embassy in Lebanon gave Hovsép and his sister Mary permission to settle in the U.S. However, because his parents, Mgrdích and Takuhí, were born in Turkey, they were given only permanent residency status, and their arrival in New York was delayed by two days.

Once in New York City, an unbelievable disappointment befell the family. One of Hovsép's first cousins, whom they had hoped would assist them in the New Land, declined to do so. Soon they moved to Los Angeles, California, as far west from New York as possible. He remembers being amazed by the capacity of Americans to purchase things without having cash, especially cars.

He however, as a newcomer, could not buy a new car but rather purchased a 1953 Chevrolet for $115-so dilapidated that it took a quart of oil each time he had to drive the short distance to school.

Hovsép was 22 and did not speak English. He enrolled in evening classes and found employment as a busboy in the cafeteria of the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, where he earned $1.60 an hour scrubbing floors and washing dishes. The staff there called him "Joe," which he hated. From that moment on, he would not allow anyone to give him another nickname-he had had plenty of those. He would proudly state, "My name is Hovsép, not Hóvsep."

In 1966 his father, Mgrdích, and in 1972 his mother, Takuhí passed on after long illnesses, with their mission in life (instilling in their two children the virtues of family values, hard work, receiving higher education, honesty, and integrity) accomplished.

Hovsép was admitted to UCLA in 1965 to study Chemistry, carrying 16-20 semester units, while working 30-32 hours a week as a box boy at Safeway and later as a cashier at a Food King supermarket, in order to support his family. His sister got a job as a registered nurse and eventually the family bought a house in West Hollywood.

When it came time to graduate from UCLA, Hovsép received a letter from Phi Beta Kappa. A ten-dollar registration fee was required to become a member of the fraternity, which seemed like a lot of money to him. He asked a friend if it would be a good idea to join the organization. The friend was amazed that Hovsép had to ask, but it was not unusual, for he was the "kind of guy who does not put too much weight on praise and recognition."

In 1968, Hovsép was accepted as a candidate for the Ph.D. program in Molecular Biology at UCLA. He was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in 1968. Later, he also became a Durham Fellow in Cancer Research. Hovsép focused his research in DNA replication and did his post doctorate in the field of viral causes of diabetes, at the University of California, Irvine.

In 1977, Hovsép formed his family unit marrying Hildá Hagopí Mehtemetián. They were blessed with three cildren, Mgrdích, Takuhí, and Aramázd.

In 1976, he was recruited to be a science advisor for the Millipore Corporation in Massachusetts, and served as the marketing director for the western U.S. Eventually, Hovsép became a financial advisor with Waddell & Reed. He specialized in marketing commercial insurance through his own insurance agency, under the "creative" name of H. Fidanián Insurance Agency.

Hovsép Fidanián is a true Renaissance man. He studied art as a member of the Komsomol, an organization that he had joined obligatorily, while in high school. As he developed the resources, he decided to support Armenian artists and has repeatedly, for years, purchased their artworks. As Hovsép says, "No nation can endure without culture. We Armenians have an ancient culture that has been sustained through the centuries. Thus, I am doing my share in perpetuating it." Hovsép originally bought prints, but later began collecting originals.

He wished that he had a piece by Ivan Aivazovsky (Hovannés Ayvazián), the great ethnic Armenian seascapist, who was the Russian Czar's court artist. Hovsép said that collecting is like a vice: "You cannot possibly own even a single work of art from each of the thousands of Armenian artists, both past and present!"

He also collects sculptures. The Khachkar or "stone-cross" is unique to his people. Armenians were the first people to adopt Christianity as their national religion in 301 A.D., well before Rome did. Thousands of tufa stone-crosses have been created over the centuries, and no two are identical. One adorns his back yard.

Hovsép also has a serious interest in music and has audited the classes that his younger son, Aramázd, attended at the local Lark Music Academy. As he said, knowing mathematics is an important key to knowing music. Science, music, art-by having studied each, Hovsép Mgrdichí Fidanián is reaping the benefits of having a quick mind. He has the capacity to resolve different situations easily and make complicated things simple. Woodrow Wilson is proud of this lifelong learner, someone whose intellectual capacity expands with every experience.

In 2005 Fidanián lost the pride of his life, his first-born son, Mgrdích "Megó" Hovsepí Fidanián, on October 13, 2005, as a result of a motorcycle accident. A memorial scholarship endowment fund has been established in Megó's name by the family.

Sources

  • Hovsép Fidanián's journey to being named as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow is the

quintessential American story.,California Courier Online, January 19, 2006