May 4, 2021: The Zoryan Institute is very saddened to learn about the passing of longtime supporter and friend, Zaruhy Sara Chitjian.
Ms. Chitjian made an incredible impact on the lives of dozens of students through the Zoryan Institute’s annual Genocide and Human Rights University Program (GHRUP). This graduate-level program explores the fundamental issues relating to human rights and genocide prevention, through a comparative and multidisciplinary approach.
Ms. Chitjian, as an educator herself, understood the immense impact that education could have in removing stumbling blocks of history, and in fostering dialogue and reconciliation between adversary groups.
For many years, Ms. Chitjian provided full scholarships annually to six deserving graduate-level students: 2 Armenian, 2 Turkish, and 2 Kurdish. These scholarships enabled the students to travel to Toronto, live together on the University of Toronto campus, learn together in an academic setting, and socialize with one another during an intensive educational program. Despite their differences, these students left the classroom with a common understanding of history, and many created lasting bonds and friendships that have lasted well beyond the program.
While the scholarships that Ms. Chitjian provided certainly made a profound impact on the students themselves, she also had a larger goal in mind. She understood that when the Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish students returned home to their own communities after attending the program, they would be sharing what they had learned with their colleagues, students and peers. This ripple effect of knowledge truly has the potential to shift the mindsets of communities, and make positive strides towards reconciliation and peace.
“I had many lively conversations with Sara over the years,” remarked George Shirinian, Executive Director of the Zoryan Institute. “She was intellectually curious, often asking complex and profound questions about issues vital to Armenians, and was deeply devoted to the betterment of the Armenian nation through education. As a teacher herself, she took a great personal interest in the individual students whom she supported for the GHRUP with generous scholarships and sometimes maintained correspondence with them after each year’s program. She was particularly interested to know how their experience at the GHRUP had changed their thinking about genocide, in general, and the Armenian Genocide, in particular.”
Prof. Joyce Apsel, Clinical Professor in the Liberal Studies Department at NYU, and Course Director of the GHRUP stated:
I had the privilege of meeting Sara Chitjian over the years in Toronto where I serve as a teacher and Director of
the Genocide and Human Rights University Program. Her support and interest in the program,
both its content and having students from different communities attend, has been crucial. The classroom can be a “privileged space” where people from different backgrounds are able to debate and learn from and with each other. And, Sara Chitjian’s support helped make this occur.
A carefully conceived legacy is evergreen. It lives on after you’re gone. Sara Chitjian’s legacy lives on through the incredible impact she made on the students she supported, the education she promoted, and in the entire field of Genocide and Human Rights Studies. On behalf of the Zoryan Institute’s Board of Directors, executives, faculty, staff and students, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for Ms. Chitjian’s longtime support, and our deepest condolences to her loved ones.
The Zoryan Institute
K.M. Greg Sarkissian, President