A Spotlight on George Shirinian: In Appreciation of a Lifetime of Dedication to Genocide and Human Rights Education
15 Sep 2022
On the occasion of the Zoryan Institute’s 40th Anniversary, once a month we will be highlighting one of our ZI Heroes. Not only have these individuals made invaluable contributions to the Institute and its mission, but they have also left their mark on the field of genocide and human rights studies.
TORONTO, September 15, 2022: The Board of Directors, staff, volunteers, and longtime supporters of the Zoryan Institute wish to publicly acknowledge their immense appreciation to the Institute’s Executive Director, George Shirinian, for his lifetime of commitment, dedication and contributions to the Zoryan Institute and the field of genocide and human rights studies.
For many, an introduction to George may be redundant, as he has been on the scene and so enmeshed in the work of the Zoryan Institute for many years. George is a natural at forming meaningful relationships with donors, alumni, institutional partners, faculty, and friends of the Zoryan Institute. He is a kind, generous, and dedicated individual, who has made significant contributions to and a tremendous impact on the field of genocide and human rights studies through his publications, research, mentorship, and his three decades of academic work done with the Zoryan Institute.
Reflecting on George’s many contributions, Dr. Varouj Aivazian, Corporate Chair of the Zoryan Institute, had this to say:
“As Executive Director of the Zoryan Institute for over thirty years, George Shirinian has overseen all aspects of the Institute’s activities. His responsibilities have included, among many others, the coordination of the Institute’s research activities as well as the organization of the Institute’s Genocide and Human Rights course. He himself made important research contributions to the field of Genocide Studies. George has performed his tasks as Executive Director of the Zoryan Institute with enormous skill, strong dedication, and sound judgement. Over the years, he has helped to steer the Institute successfully through its many challenges and always maintained a pragmatic and, at the same time, highly positive vision of the Institute’s purpose and future. George has strong talents both as a scholar and an administrator and the Institute will remain forever in his debt for his many valuable contributions. He continues to be an indispensable member of the Zoryan Institute’s academic team.”
In 1986, George became a supporter and volunteer of the Zoryan Institute of Canada, and from 1990 to 1994, he was the Chair of the Institute’s Academic Board of Directors. After a brief hiatus, he returned to the Institute to become its Executive Director in 1999. In his capacity as Executive Director, he has been an official of the IIGHRS’s journal Genocide Studies International and the lead organizer of the annual Genocide and Human Rights University Program (GHRUP), hosted in partnership with the University of Toronto. Prof. Joyce Apsel, the Course Director of the GHRUP, had this to say about George:
“Over the last decades, I have had the privilege of learning from and working with George Shirinian in his capacity as Executive Director of Zoryan Institute. First when I was an instructor and then as Director of the GHRUP course over the last decade, George along with the rest of the “Program Development team” and Roger Smith helped set up key foundations of the course. Besides his role in inviting faculty and on the admissions committee, George took a deep personal and professional interest in the students during and after the class. He was key in creating a vibrant network of students who continued to stay in contact with him and with each other; many from Armenia and studying aspects of the Armenian Genocide but also those interested in research on a range of subjects covered in GHRUP.
George Shirinian as a human being, scholar, teacher, and Executive Director has made an enormous contribution to me and to many others. I feel deeply privileged and enriched to have him as a colleague and friend.”
In addition to his dedication to the formation and execution of the GHRUP, George has dedicated countless hours of his life to painstakingly proof reading, editing, and offering his personal research assistance for every book that has been published by Institute since 1999, including but not limited to: From Empire to Republic Turkish Nationalism & The Armenian Genocide (Taner Akçam), The Banality of Denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide (Yair Auron), Dialogue Across An International Divide: Essays Towards a Turkish-Armenian Dialogue (Taner Akçam), A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and The Question of Turkish Responsibility (Taner Akçam), Model Citizens of The State The Jews of Turkey During the Multi-Party Period (Rifat N. Bali), The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-1916 (Wolfgang Gust). Some of the authors had this to say about George’s invaluable contributions:
“I extend special thanks to George Shirinian, Executive Director of the Zoryan Institute, who edited the translation with great care and precision and oversaw the preparation of the final manuscript.” (Gust, 2015)
“I would also like to thank George Shirinian of the Zoryan Institute for his devotion to this project and for research and editorial assistance in the preparation of this book.” (Auron, 2003)
“I want to express special thanks to George Shirinian, the Director of the Zoryan Institute, whose tireless editing, challenging questions, and overseeing of the whole publication process helped make this book a reality.” (Akçam, 2004)
George has also been the lead locomotive behind the Institute’s in-house research, and in maintaining, preserving, and digitizing its renowned Armenian Genocide Oral History Collection and its many invaluable archival collections over the years. In addition, he has conceptualized, organized, and coordinated many of the Institute’s public conferences, seminars, and workshops. Co-Chair of the Institute’s Academic Board of Directors, Prof. Roger Smith, had this to say:
“It is a pleasure to recognize and thank George for his solid contributions as Executive Director of Zoryan over many years. It has involved many dimensions: the daily operations of the office, curating Zoryan’s vast collection of oral histories, maintaining close relations with donors, and helping to create the GHRUP, now in its 20th year, a program widely viewed as world class. A visitor was so impressed with the seminar that she wrote a check on the spot for $15,000 and handed it to George.
As you may know, George delighted in taking much appreciated class photo in front of his old college at the University. He also created space twice a week at the Fox and Fiddle, where he invited several members of the class along with faculty members for easy conversation and refreshments after the day’s work. It was a kind gesture that showed that he regarded members of the seminar not as students but junior colleagues. He was not only thoughtful and committed, but kind, something I personally experienced many times.
Zoryan has been lucky to have him. I am proud to have worked with him for twenty years, not only for his contributions, but our friendship.”
George has served as a mentor to many emerging scholars in the field of genocide and human rights studies, particularly those working on the Armenian Genocide. He continues to make his mark on the field with his own work and research. One of his earliest works, edited in partnership with Levon Chorbajian, Studies in Comparative Genocide (1999), continues to be one of the most comprehensive and referenced textbooks dedicated to comparative genocide studies. He has also written several poignant papers for notable academic journals, including Genocide Studies International and the Armenian Review, and countless timely essays and op-eds for the Zoryan Institute. Some of his more recent books include: The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Ottoman Greek Genocide: Essays on Asia Minor, Pontos and Eastern Thrace, 1913-1923 (2012), Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks 1913-1923 (2017), The Greek Genocide 1913-1923: New Perspectives (2019).
Greg Sarkissian, the President of the Institute had this to say about George:
“It is without question that George Shirinian is a “Zoryan Hero” and the rock I always leaned on throughout our joint journey as Zoryan officials over the past four decades of our collaboration. Since the mid-90s, no book has left the Zoryan Institute without him editing and coordinating the entire publication process. Dealing with the subject of genocide, killing and destruction, day in and day out, is an extremely stressful and emotionally taxing task. It was especially emotional for George as he would relive the trauma of his parents, who were first generation survivors of the Armenian Genocide and two of the Georgetown orphans. He continues to leave his mark on the field of genocide studies, and in the hearts of those with whom he interacts.
On behalf of the Zoryan Institute, its Board of Directors, editors, faculty members and its staff, I wish to express our deepest appreciation and thanks for his leadership, selfless contributions, and the gracious guidance that he continues to offer as he dedicates more time to his own important and invaluable research.”
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