A FAITH, A VISION AND A COMMITMENT FOR TRUTH, FREEDOM, SERVICE
Founders’ Day is certainly an opportunity to thank God for our University, and for those who had the vision and the commitment to establish it. Founders’ Day is also a time to look at our institution and reassess its standing, in terms of what it is called to actualize in the lives of the new generation: to realize a drive to seek the truth, to uphold freedom and to commit to service.
As we celebrate Founders’ Day at Haigazian University today, our thoughts go back to the circumstances our esteemed founders had found themselves in. It certainly was not the best of times for them in general. Before establishing this institution of higher learning, they were the children or the young men of the time of the Armenian Genocide. They were the generation that had witnessed the loss of hundreds of schools and many institutions of higher learning in their ancestral homeland, and were therefore deprived of the benefits of higher education, many of them, because of the lack of possible institutions or of the lack of financial possibilities. Moreover, their world, in which they had tried to make a living and a way of life, was just out of the Second World War. Yet, the necessity of higher learning, and especially their vision of it, prompted them to action. And they called it in the name of a martyred professor, Armenak Haigazian, who had perished along with his nation in 1915.
What we have now as an institution of higher learning which we pride ourselves in, started out very modestly, as a college to equip teachers and clergy with the necessary knowledge for their careers. It was an act of faith, an act of vision and an act of commitment.
Our Founders were people of faith. They were members of the Armenian Evangelical Church reestablished after the Armenian Genocide and deportation of the population into the many countries of the Armenian Diaspora and especially in Lebanon, and the Armenian Missionary Association of America, established in 1918 in the USA, to help their nation “back home” to cope with the dire situations created by unhindered atrocities. They had faith in God, faith in their own heritage, faith in the new generation, faith in the young country of Lebanon. They dared to start out with a handful of young men and women as students and a few teachers. The Armenian Evangelical College, right next door to it, already had a Sophomore class, which it passed on to the new Haigazian College, to try and bring it to the B.A. level. The whole venture of having a College where people with limited financial means could study for a Bachelors’ degree, was first and foremost, an act of faith.
Our Founders were also people of vision. What they had dared to start in faith in 1955, was by no means the end result they were aspiring to. Courses and majors had to be added, with the numbers of students being multiplied within a few years. What we now see, is the realization of their vision of Haigazian, as they knew their older generation had experienced in their colleges of old. What is most significant, is that their vision was contagious among the newer generation. Not just persons, but whole families, like the Mehagians, the Philibosians, Aharonians and others subscribed to that vision, and many still do. They give of their time and financial possibilities to keep the vision alive and powerful.
The vision then became a reality, because our Founders were also committed to it, committed to make it work. They were ready to give all they could, whatever was necessary to develop curricula, expand facilities, establish new courses and majors and set up Masters’ degrees. Now we have the Haigazian University that we know, with the schools, the programs, the financial aid and, most importantly, the values it stands for, as the beautiful and beneficial fruit of their commitment. We do not forget the unwavering commitment of also those many, who joined the same faith and vision along the way. Haigazian University has continued upholding the same values, all through its years, amid all kinds difficulties, including the Lebanese civil war, wars on Lebanon, amid economic and security turmoil and stifling limitations, pursuing excellence even when times are rough. Those were and still are the values the Founders of this University stood for. The vision really was that those values will change the world around the University, its graduates and their families, their societies and their countries; and those values are summed up in the three words we hear being repeated: Truth, Freedom, Service.
Today, we live in a world where Truth is “created”, Freedom is “negotiated”, and Service is “sold and bought”. We have around us, at best, a semblance of truth, a makeshift freedom and a fake impression of service. All are trying to get the most benefit out of the resources of the country, with the least effort possible on their part. Yet, in keeping with this motto, Haigazian University is trying to convince its students that:
there are no shortcuts to the Truth,
it has to be sought after diligently and sincerely;
there are no partialities in Freedom,
it has to be whole and responsible;
there are no pretenses to Service,
it has to be dedicated and faithful.
Or else, we will end up with more corrupt government and with less capable society. All we see in the news are demonstrations and demands for rights and privileges; rights and privileges, mind you, “won” by practice or repetition. Have you seen any one demonstrating for their right to responsibilities and duties. Of course not. But we know that without responsible and dutiful persons as operatives and members, companies, institutions and society in general will be at an imbalance and doomed to collapse eventually.
The Founders of Haigazian University, in their daring and bold venture of establishing an institution of higher learning, were saying that they want to bring forth balance in the lives of persons, institutions and communities with the values they themselves lived by. They believed that “the freedom of man is by educating the child”, and that in providing young people with higher education will empower them to value that balance and that freedom. Let us therefor consider those values for ourselves, for our lives and our country today.
Truth, Freedom, Service implemented in many lives will really bring balance to those lives and the surrounding, and really honor the Founders.
Rev. Megrditch Karagoezian
Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches
In the Near East