Haigazian University is named in honor of Dr. Armenag Haigazian, former headmaster of the Jenanian Apostolic Institute of Konya, Turkey. Dr. Haigazian was a highly respected educator who received his Ph.D. from Yale University and returned to Turkey to serve his Armenian compatriots. When the "ethnic cleansing" of the Armenians began, Dr. Haigazian had the opportunity to escape to the United States, but he chose to stay and continue his ministry. Later, he, along with many Armenian intellectuals, was rounded up to be driven to the Syrian desert. Dr. Haigazian died on the way in the prison of Kharpert in 1921( NY Times article).
Concurrently, eight Armenian colleges were also destroyed in Turkey. Although these aspects of education and service were brought to an end, the dream continued in the minds of Dr. Haigazian's descendants and others. The Mehagian family (Mary Mehagian and Florence Mehagian-Guertmenian) of Phoenix, Arizona, close relatives of Dr. Haigazian, donated capital through the AMAA and worked hand in hand with Stephen Philibosian to get Haigazian College started.
The University was founded on October 17, 1955, by the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East (UAECNE) and the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) as a liberal arts college to assist in the preparation of teachers and pastors.
Prior to this date, the Armenian Evangelical community of Beirut, to complement its high schools and the Teacher Training needs, had established two post-secondary educational programs: the Teacher's Training Institute, which was housed in the library of the Central High School and operated from 1948-51, and the Armenian Evangelical College, which held a Freshman Arts and Sciences program under the sponsorship of the First Armenian Evangelical Church of Beirut. These two entities merged in 1951 forming a Freshman Arts and Sciences plus a Sophomore Arts program, and they continued to serve the Armenian Community until 1955, when Haigazian College was established. Haigazian College was originally designed to function as a junior college offering two years of university-level education. However, a demand for upper-division classes encouraged the institution to develop four year programs.
Haigazian operated under its original name of "College" until 1991. In keeping with Near Eastern nomenclature, the name was changed to Haigazian University College in 1992. On December 28, 1996, the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education of Lebanon issued decree number 9657, which authorized the institution to change its name to Haigazian University.
Dr. John Markarian, the first president of the University, served until June 1966. During the years 1967 to 1971, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian held this position; then Dr. Markarian returned to the post until his retirement in June 1982. Subsequently, the presidency was held by Dr. Verne H. Fletcher until February 1985. Miss Wilma Cholakian, the administrative dean, was then responsible for the operation of the University until August 30, 1995. Dr. John Khanjian served as president from September 1, 1995, until August 1, 2002. On September 1, 2002, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian became president.
When the University opened in 1955, there were 43 students enrolled. Student enrollment reached 650 before the start of the civil disturbances in Lebanon in 1975. The present enrollment is approximately 700 with a faculty and staff of 170. So far the university has granted the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelors of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Business Administration degrees in various fields to around 3,800 students.
The university was first located in the Webb Building the residence of American Missionary Elizabeth Webb, a ten-room house converted for college use. Later, a seven-story building was added. This building was called the Mehagian Academic Center in honor of Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Mehagian, whose financial support made its construction possible. A grant from Mr. Stephen P. Mugar of Boston, MA enabled the university to acquire a beautiful historic structure, a sample of the Lebanese architectural heritage, subsequently named the Mugar Building, to honor the donor's parents.
In 1987, due to the Lebanese war, the University moved to the Christian Medical Center in the Ashrafieh district, and classes continued as usual. On March 27, 1996, the Board of Managers decided that the University should return to its original campus on Rue Mexique, Kantari. On February 16, 1997, the renovation of the former campus began. On October 6, 1997, classes resumed in the renovated and revitalized Kantari campus to the delight of students and the community at large.
Early in July 2001, began the construction of a fourth building on the Mugar property which has a media center, a board room, and faculty offices. This new facility became operational in October 2001.
To accommodate the growth of the student body, in August 2004, a new piece of property was purchased on the May Ziadeh Street (parallel to Mexique Street on which the University operates). The plot includes a 6-floor Heritage Building which now hosts seminar rooms, administrative and academic sections. The Heritage Building, which enriches the cultural identity of the neighborhood, was inaugurated on April 9, 2012.
Empowered by its newly acquired authorization from the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education to offer graduate programs, since 1995, the institution has started four Masters programs: Educational Administration and Supervision, General Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Masters in Business Administration and Hotel Management. Throughout its fifty-seven years of service, the University has contributed to the development of young active and able human resources for Lebanon, and the larger world.