Vartan H. Jinishian was born 1870 in Marash, Cilicia (then in the Ottoman Empire), the oldest son of the Reverend Haroutune Jinishian and Mrs. Catherine Jinishian. He later named his endowment fund in honor of his parents, emigrants to America in the early 20th century. Near the end of the 19th century, he moved to France and finally to the U.S. After arriving in New York, his first job was as an English teacher. He later joined a firm owned by another Armenian, Mihran Karageuzian. He became a partner in that firm and it pioneered the manufacture of oriental rugs and carpets. Vartan H. Jinishian was also a collector of fine art and imported, oriental carpets. He invested in real estate in New York City, especially in Manhattan. He maintained membership in both the Armenian Evangelical Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).