Melkonian Alumni and Friends
2005-01 Legal Action, USA

Official Website
2005-01 Legal Action, USA

Devoted alumni from around the world have banded together to oppose the closing of their beloved Melkonian Institute and School, a treasure of Armenian culture and education in Nicosia, Cyprus. Using the proceeds of a large financial gift from Garabed Melkonian, an Armenian merchant, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Zaven Der Yeghyayan, in 1923 established the Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus. It has nurtured there generations of Armenian Lawyers, doctors, poets, scientists, and leaders. Its location in Cyprus puts it at the crossroads of the Armenian culture-between the Armenia homeland and the millions of Armenians who have immigrated to Europe and the America’s.

The Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople with Mr. Melkonian’s concurrence thereafter conveyed the entire gif, including the Melkonian Educational Institute, in trust to the Armenian General Benevolent Union, in 1925, with the express direction and expectation that the Union would maintain the Institute in Cyprus and continue to educate Armenian youth long into the future. The Melkonian School now educates over 300 students from throughout the world every year at its 40 acre campus in Nicosia.

The Armenian General Benevolent Union has recently announced that the Melkonian Institute will be closed at the end of the 2005 school year as a cost savings measure. Melkonian graduates from around the world have united in vigorous opposition to any effort to sell off the School and to do injustice to Garabed Melkonian’s vision and foresight. So far, individual calls to AGBU to retain the school have gone unanswered.

On behalf of Melkonian alumni, around the world, the Patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, Mesrob Mutafyan, as the original trustee of the Melkonian gift, filed a lawsuit on January 13, 2005, against The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) seeking to continue the Institute as the premier Armenian educational facility in the world and enforce the terms of the Garabed Melkonian Trust. The suit will be prosecuted by MacCarley & Rosen, PLC of Los Angeles, California.

Subject: Cyprus Mail Article
Armenian Patriarch sues in bid to save the Melkonian By Jean Christou

THE ARMENIAN Patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan, has filed suit in Los Angeles against the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) in an attempt to prevent the closure of the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) in Cyprus. According to an announcement from the Melkonian worldwide alumni, the Patriarch, who is the original trustee of the MEI, filed the suit on January 13 with the Superior Court of the State of California.

The action is being co-ordinated and mediated by the California group on behalf of the Patriarchate, a beneficiary of Garabed Melkonian’s Deed of assignment. Garabed Melkonian was one of the two sibling founders of the Nicosia-based secondary school 78 years ago. The MEI is under threat of closure from June this year, after the AGBU, which administers some 22 Armenian schools worldwide, decided the loss-making school should close finally. However, the alumni and other friends of the Melkonain have banded together to fight the decision, believing that the true motive of the closure is financial, given that the school is sitting on some £40 million worth of commercial real estate in the capital. The legal battle is the last chance to save the MEI and the challenge is based on the extent to which the AGBU should have control of the MEI. Using the proceeds of the large financial gift from Garabed, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Zaven Der Yeghyayan, in 1923 established the MEI. In 1925, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, with Garabed Melkonian’s concurrence, thereafter conveyed the entire gift, including the MEI, in trust to the AGBU, with the express direction and expectation that it would maintain the Institute in Cyprus and continue to educate Armenian youth, the announcement said.

"The AGBU always argued that the copy of the deed in the hands of the Alumni is in fact not the latest document in existence and that it (the AGBU) has a later copy that changes the status of the Melkonian, thus giving the AGBU the right to close the school and sell the land," the alumni announcement said.
"The alumni, and Jack Melkonian, great nephew of Garabed Melkonian, dispute this.
"In spite of all this, the AGBU has so far refused to produce what it contests is the later will in its possession."

During a visit to the island in November, Jack Melkonian, the great great nephew of Garabed, said he would join the fight to save the school. He said his family had a copy of the deed, which clearly states that a trust should be set up, the proceeds of which were to keep the school going. He said there was no mention in the deed that the school should not exist, and that in fact his great great uncle was rather concerned that the school stay open. The amount donated at that time corresponded to the budget of Luxembourg, he said. Melkonian said he had asked the AGBU to forward its document, but it had not done so by that time.

"If indeed the AGBU has a later copy of the deed of assignment, they will be forced to show it in court, or else pay the Patriarchate the money withheld over the last 79 years, no doubt with interest, and possible also have to pay additional compensation," the alumni said, referring to the alleged non-payment of an annual sum stipulated in the Deed of Assignment.


Translations from Yerevan Newspapers
Tuesday, January 19, 2005



Yesterday’s issue of “Zhamanak” daily of Polis published the following article, which will most probably bring forth new developments around the decision of closure of Melkonian Educational Institute of Cyprus. The main news of the article is that Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Archbishop Mesrop Mutafian has applied to the court instances of California filing a lawsuit against the Central Board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union. According to Mutafian, AGBU has violated the terms of the Melkonian will signed in 1926, according to which the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul must receive 1000 UK pound annually from AGBU. “Azg” daily will follow the future developments of this case, which may have dangerous consequences including interference of Turkish government.

“The will of the Melkonian brothers is on the agenda of the Armenians in the whole world these days. Melkonians left their wealth to our people, established very important institutes during their lives and left their will to guarantee the future of these and other national establishments. We are forever grateful to them for their activities and that’s why their memory lives bright in our people.

Let’s put aside the moral side of the issue. The Melkonian will with all its details have become an issue of discussion. What’s the matter? The answer to this question is today known to everyone. The reason, in short, is the short-sighted activities of the Central Board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). During their lifetime the Melkonian brothers established the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI), perhaps the biggest of all their activities. MEI is in Cyprus. The Melkonians also secured the future of the MEI by their will. According to different sources the will cost about 600,000 UK pound and included a number of landed property at the time when it was formed and signed. A huge part of the will refers to MEI and the financial support to be provided to it, but it also includes other national establishments to be supported financially like Yerevan State University, Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Istanbul.

In the beginning the will was managed by the Istanbul Patriarchate. Then in 1926 a three-sided contract was signed and the will was passed to the AGBU. Grikor Melkonian had already passed away at that time and the will was signed by his brother Garabed Melkonian. The contract was also signed by the Istanbul Patriarchate and AGBU. This means that the Patriarchate passed the will over to AGBU and Garabed Melkonian gave his approval. In the course of time this situation went on successfully and AGBU fulfilled its obligations towards MEI.

However, last year’s decision of the AGBU Central Board to close the MEI caused doubts concerning the future healthy use of that contract. Armenians of the whole world accepted this decision with reservations and rebellion. It raised a wave of protest. Armenians’ conscience never justified the decision of closure of MEI. AGBU Central Board, which was continuously preparing grounds for the closure of MEI, brought forth unbelievable and unacceptable arguments and explanations about their decision. It truly discredited AGBU’s authority.

Conscious circles of the Diaspora challenged this decision of the AGBU separating it from the other activities of the organization. AGBU is a unique structure for all Armenians, which finances a network of educational, cultural and humanitarian establishments worldwide. AGBU CB has no right to make a decision of closing the MEI. AGBU does not own MEI, it only supplies the MEI, and can neither close it nor sell it. The MEI graduates and supporters worldwide together with different alumni are doing their best to preserve MEI. The main issue here is to find who the owner of MEI is.

Now Archbishop Mesrop Mutafian has filed a lawsuit against the AGBU Central Board. According to the Melkonian will AGBU was supposed to pay 3000 UK pound to the Yerevan State University, plus 1000 UK pound to each of the Jerusalem and Istanbul Patriarchates every year. The will was signed in 1926 and during the past 79 years the Patriarchate of Istanbul has not received the money from the AGBU.