Richard G. Hovannisian was a titan in the field of Armenian Studies – an academic discipline that he shaped with his groundbreaking scholarship and professionalism. He passed away this week, at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy that is impossible to capture.
He lived the life of a public intellectual. He became a historian with a mission – to promote the study of the Armenian Genocide as a consequential 20th century event. His research and publications cemented the place of the first Republic of Armenia in Armenian history and world history. Yet, he never lost sight of his two other responsibilities, teaching and community building. He was a professor who shaped multiple generations’ ideas and outlook on what it means to be Armenian. He and his life partner, Dr. Vartiter Kotcholosian Hovannisian, were an unrelenting, resolute presence in the developing Armenian-American community of Southern California – which always included the California Central Valley where his genocide survivor father settled.
His name has been omnipresent in academia for nearly seven decades, making space for Armenian scholars at institutions once out of reach. Hovannisian’s time at the University of California Los Angeles birthed new scholars through the graduate program he founded in Armenian history. Hovannisian also provided opportunities for students of all disciplines to have hands-on experience collecting, transcribing, and translating the invaluable oral histories of Armenian Genocide survivors. In recent years, he was also a presence at the University of Southern California, after entrusting his large collection of oral history interviews to the university for preservation and public access. The interviews were among the first to be conducted with genocide survivors.
Richard G. Hovannisian’s scholarship, mentorship, publications, and community building have touched the lives and trajectories of innumerable people, including every member of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.
Our sincere condolences to his family, peers, friends, students, and the Armenian Studies community worldwide for this enormous loss.