Date: Thu, May 25, 2006 at 11:33 PM
Subject: OBITUARY - HAYGACHEN OUZOUNIAN
AYGACHEN OUZOUNIAN, LEADER OF MELKONIAN STRUGGLE, DIES AT 86
Haygachen Ouzounian, a prominent figure in the Armenian Diaspora and a staunch supporter of the struggle to help save the historic Melkonian school, died in Larnaca late Wednesday after a long illness at the age of 86.
His funeral is expected to take place in Switzerland. Ouzounian was born in Adana in 1920 and came to the Melkonian Educational Institute in 1933 from where he graduated in 1938. He continued his studies and became a civil engineer with an international portfolio of achievements.
He got involved in politics and joined the ranks of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Organization (ADL), also known as the Ramgavar Party, rose to the post of co-president, and was a leading founder of the party’s affiliated Tekeyan Cultural Society, an organization with chapters around the world establishing various literary awards and scholarships.
His dedication to community service attracted Haygachen Ouzounian to rise to the leadership of the Armenian General Benevolent Union where he served as Vice President to the late Alex Manoukian, the charity organisation’s president for four decades.
Ouzounian was an inseparable part of the AGBU and was recently declared a Director Emeritus for his contributions. He believed that one of his biggest achievements was to realise the AGBU’s vision for the Melkonian that involved the partial sale of land in the early 1980s in order to fund the construction of modern boarding facilities, a sports complex for the students and the Melkonian Commercial Centre on Limassol Avenue, as a revenue earning project that would secure the school’s long-term financial needs.
When he first suspected that the present leadership of the AGBU planned to close the Melkonian and sell the land, he initiated a campaign that immediately engulfed the worldwide alumni of the school. He was a fervent supporter of the legal battle that has seen two court cases filed against the AGBU in Cyprus and the U.S., with the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul as the plaintiff.
The Azg daily of Yerevan recently published Haygachen Ouzounian’s memoirs that covered his adolescent and young adult years at the Melkonian Educational Institute.
In an extensive report to the Armenian Mirror-Spectator published in Boston, Ouzounian said: "It will be the most tragic move made by the AGBU, and will cause the most harm to our nation. Those determining the current policy of the Central Board will be subject to severe indictment by our people in the court of history".
Ouzounian, one of the early graduates of the Melkonian, blamed the Central Board for the decrease in the number of boarding students. The school, he said, could accommodate up to 350 boarders but this was the thwarted by the Central Board, who hiked the fees to such that Armenians from East Europe, the Middle East and Armenia could not afford.
"There is reason to close the Melkonian," he said in a recent interview from his home in Larnaca. "Melkonian is very important for our youth. Melkonian is not only important for Cyprus, but for all Armenians in the Diaspora."
"Unfortunately AGBU does not represent the image that it carried in the past," said Ouzounian. "It has lost its favorable façade among the people and has been re-organised as a foundation in the hands of only a few who do whatever they please. It is unfortunate that an organization such as this after 100 years of earning our nation’s trust is now falling apart and losing its credibility among our people. How can they close the Melkonian?"
By Massis Der Partogh in Cyprus