A pillar of the AGBU global community and a leader in the worlds of industry and philanthropy, the pre-eminent Armenian patron Nazar Nazarian passed away on August 28, 2023, at age 98, having fully lived out his oft-stated personal credo —”to experience the joy and sense of reward that come through unreserved giving and dedicated service to one’s nation and the Armenian Church.”
“Our community has experienced a deep loss with the passing of the beloved Nazar. Always prepared to invest in ambitious undertakings with the goal of impacting the greatest number of people, he has led a very intentional and spiritually guided life and I have been blessed to call him a friend, confidante, uncle and fellow AGBU board member,” stated AGBU President Berge Setrakian.
Blessed with longevity, Nazarian had ample opportunity to fulfill his destiny as the successor of a long line of distinguished patrons of education, health care, nation-building and above all, the Armenian Church. It is a family legacy that he and his late wife Artemis, who passed in 2020, instilled in their family who survive them: their daughter Seta and son Levon and his wife Claudia, as well as their five grandchildren: William, Matthew, Nicholas, Daniela, and Gregory Nazarian. Nazar was also blessed to recently welcome and know his two great-grandchildren Henry and Madeline.
Born in Aleppo, Syria to Levon and Satenig Nazarian, Nazar was raised in Lebanon surrounded by his loving siblings, Garbis, Noubar and Marie, where the family served as bastions of the local Armenian community. He graduated from the American University of Beirut with a BS degree in Pharmacy. Nazar immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950’s to expand the family business where he met the love of his life, Artemis Topjian, a native of Watertown, MA. Having attained all the trappings of the American Dream, the couple committed themselves to sharing their good fortune by supporting a wide range of Armenian endeavors. Their consistent generosity fostered the development of local Armenian communities—not only in the Greater New York area, where they lived, worked, and raised a family, but to various corners of the world, in North America, South America, Lebanon, and later, in independent Armenia and a struggling Artsakh.
An esteemed patron and leader of AGBU
Nazar’s love for the vision and the values of AGBU stemmed from a deep-rooted family association and upbringing. It was no surprise that his dedication would flourish and bring him into important leadership positions within the organization. Between 1978 and 2007, he served on the AGBU Central Board of Directors, holding positions as vice president and treasurer, and thereafter as member of the Council of Trustees and finally, as Emeritus Trustee. He distinguished himself as among the most far-reaching figures in modern AGBU history.
Driven always by the promise of the new generations, he and Artemis created community centers, supported schools and established educational scholarships under the AGBU banner around the world. From the Levon and Satenig Nazarian Primary School (Beirut, Lebanon) to the Levon Nazarian Hall (Saddle Brook, New Jersey) to the Nazarian Center at Camp Nubar (Delancey, New York) to the Artemis Nazarian Preschool at AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School (Canoga Park, California) to the Salon Nazarian (Buenos Aires, Argentina), innumerable gatherings have been held and thousands of children have laughed and played under the Nazarian name.
A pioneering force for Armenia
In 1998, Nazar took the initiative of funding the construction of a building dedicated to the memory of his brother Noubar under the AGBU banner. This complex has served and continues to serve as the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Lebanon. This strategic decision was among a long list of targeted donations to community development, connecting diaspora and homeland and ensuring prosperity of the nation of Armenia.
In 2000, while Armenia was still reeling from the collapse of the soviet health system, Nazarian made another visionary decision—to help fund the first ultrasound facility in the country with the establishment of the Levon and Claudia Nazarian Radiology Center, as a project of AGBU. This state-of-the-art ultrasound technology has since helped save countless lives in Armenia. In addition, the Nazarians have distributed dozens of ultrasound machines to hospitals throughout Armenia, Artsakh, and the region of Javakhk in the Republic of Georgia, where a large community of ethnic Armenians reside.
A crowning achievement came in 2015, when, thanks to Nazar and Artemis, the AGBU Armenia building in Yerevan opened its doors to 5,000 square meters of office space. This secured a permanent physical presence for AGBU in the homeland with the capacity to directly serve various communities across Armenia and Artsakh. Since then, AGBU has implemented numerous socio-economic development and humanitarian relief initiatives and has become a hub for cultural events showcasing the best of Armenia’s vibrant creative and artistic life.
Faith and devotion
Nazar’s commitment to his faith drove his personal volunteer engagement and many philanthropic projects. Locally, his dedication to the church began in his early years in the USA where in 1969 he became one of the Godfathers of the construction of the St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral (NY). He was among one of the founding leaders and benefactors of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly (NJ) as well as a patron of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New Rochelle (NY) where he served for many years on the board. He and his wife donated generously to the education of future Armenian priests and church leaders.
The Nazarians were also instrumental in supporting the Church in the newly independent homeland. Early on, they funded the construction of the Holy Etchmiadzin Chancellery, which houses the administrative offices and the secretariat of the Catholicosate. They were also the benefactors of the St. Dertad chapel within the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan. He was the recipient of the highest honors bestowed by Holy Etchmiadzin as well as countless other awards and recognitions from church leaders around the world and heads of state.
“Nazar was always more than a generous donor to our Church. He remained a close friend and advisor to His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and contributed to many religious programs and activities initiated by His Holiness,” noted Setrakian.
The Nazarians’ generosity extended well beyond the walls of the Armenian world. They were consistent community donors giving to cultural and arts programming. In addition, they established funds and scholarships at prestigious institutions like Boston University and Wesleyan University, while also helping countless individuals fulfill their dreams by offering individual grants to students around the world.
AGBU extends its deepest condolences to the Nazarian family members as they process the loss of their loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather—a man who knew no bounds in serving his Nation and the Church, and incorporated the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity into his daily life.