AGBU convenes 90th General Assembly in Paris

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On February 9, Armenians from all over the world gathered in Paris to participate in AGBU’s 90th General Assembly at Les Jardins de Saint Dominique. Convened biennially to discuss the organization’s state of affairs, the event unites AGBU members in considering contemporary realities facing the Armenian world, celebrating AGBU’s accomplishments and establishing the guiding principles of the coming years.

An institutional tradition that has carried AGBU through more than a century globally, the General Assembly serves to strengthen the message of the organization, welcome new membership and celebrate accomplished leadership. Because of recent developments in contemporary Armenian history, the Assembly focused on how recognizing, empowering and mobilizing potential in AGBU communities is vital for sustainable political, social and economic development in Armenia and across the world.

“We must remain relevant and serve as champions of Armenian interests. We should be in a constant state of evolution,” AGBU President Berge Setrakian said, addressing the Assembly. “We must ask ourselves at all times: Are we speaking to the timely concerns of every generation? Are we addressing global issues? And most of all, can we amplify our voice as a united people, giving credence to the concept of being ‘a small republic that is a global nation’?”

Reaching Armenians across the world and having them engage with AGBU means recognizing Armenians for the many identities they carry. The diversity of the members that gathered in Paris to participate this year aligned with the shifting narrative of Armenian identity and as such, the guiding principles measuring official membership in AGBU. “This is why our General Assembly has just adopted an amendment to our bylaws including anyone who believes in the values of our organization as a welcome member,” President Setrakian announced, “And now, we must find ways to reach all of these Armenians.” The spirit of finding unity in diversity and recognizing how AGBU organizes communities across the world evolved as the underlying theme of the meeting and throughout the weekend events.

Newly-elected AGBU Central Board Members (from left to right) Haig Ariyan, Nadia Gortzounian and Vartkess Knadjian. (Not pictured: Ari Libarikian)

During the General Assembly four new board members: Haig Ariyan of New York, Nadia Gortzounian of France, Vartkess Knadjian of Belgium and Ari Libarikian of New York.

Haig Ariyan is the president and CEO of Alex Brown and serves as head of Raymond James Global Wealth Solutions. He had previously worked at Dean Witter Reynolds, where he launched his career in financial services. Ariyan is a member of the board of trustees of the Diocese of the Armenian Church and has served as chairman of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund’s investment committee. He is also a member of the board of trustees of St. Nersess Seminary and sits on the board of the Dadourian Foundation.

Nadia Gortzounian enjoyed a 28-year career in the pharmaceutical industry at Merck & Co. in France and she has spent her last 15 years with Merck as business unit director for primary care products. Appointed president of AGBU France in October 2015 and president of AGBU Europe in 2016, she has spearheaded the development of strategic objectives for the region. Long involved in the Armenian community in France, Gortzounian is the treasurer and general secretary of CCAF (Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France), and a member of the board of the Bullukian Foundation in Lyon.

Vartkess Knadjian is the chief executive of Backes & Strauss. Serving as president of AGBU Belgium from 1992 to 2005, he has also been closely involved with Armenia since 1993, when he first started working with the Shoghakan Diamond Factory. Knadjian is the co-founder of the Armenian Jewelers’ Association and established the Armenian Jewelers’ Foundation to raise funds for research on the history of Armenian jewelers, traders and stone merchants. He is a partner in Lori Diamond Factory in Nor Keghi, Armenia.

Ari Libarikian is a senior partner with McKinsey & Company in New York and the leader of the Digital McKinsey Northeast location, focused on helping a broad set of clients across sectors develop and drive digital strategies, and leverage operations and technology to drive business value. Prior to joining McKinsey, he held various positions at Nortel Networks and Bell Labs focused on developing and testing next-generation telecommunications technologies. He currently serves on the board of the Children’s Aid Society in New York.

The AGBU Council of Trustees also saw change in leadership as Vatche Manoukian, prominent philanthropist and businessman, was announced as chairman. He will serve alongside RA President Armen Sarkissian, Eric Esrailian, Sam Simonian, Sinan Sinanian and AGBU President Berge Setrakian, as ex-officio member. Former members of the Council of Trustees Sarkis Demirdjian, Louise Manoogian Simone, Richard Manoogian, Nazar Nazarian and Karnig Yacoubian became Emeritus Trustees.