The USC Institute of Armenian Studies has named Gegham Mughnetsyan as the Institute’s Chitjian Researcher Archivist. The naming is in honor of long-time Institute donor, philanthropist and distinguished community member Sara Chitjian.
She was one of the Institute’s first donors and supporters. Miss Chitjian believes in the value of education and scholarship to achieve fairness and justice. She taught that as a teacher, she supports that as a philanthropist.
Sara Chitjian was born in Mexico City in the family of Ovsanna and Hampartzoum Chitjians who were survivors of the genocide. The family relocated to East Los Angeles in 1935. Miss Chitjian graduated from UCLA in 1956 and began a teaching career at the Los Angeles Unified School District which lasted for 34 years.
In retirement Miss Chitjian has dedicated her time to the archiving of the Armenian Genocide, specifically through the documentation of a rich and complex family history. Her father Hampartzoum was a great storyteller and one of those who told his family story countless times to various scholars, journalists, photographers and filmmakers. He was also a regular in Miss Chitjian’s elementary school classes where he helped children from a variety of backgrounds begin to understand genocide. It helped that Mr. Chitjian was a child survivor and his memories were those of a child, making his stories very relatable to children and young people.
Gegham Mughnetsyan, Institute research associate since 2016, received his undergraduate degree from University of California, Berkeley in Peace and Conflict studies where his focus was on US foreign policy toward Nagorno Karabakh. Mr. Mughnetsyan went on to complete his graduate degree at the American University, in Washington DC, where he studied International Affairs.
At USC, Mr. Mughnetsyan works with post-genocide diasporan archival materials. The work entails documentation, translation and collection building.
Since February of 2018, Mr. Mughnetsyan has been leading an oral history initiative tasked with recording, translating, transcribing the stories, and digitizing archival documents about the community of Armenian displaced persons who, in the course of World War II, were uprooted from their homes in the Nazi-occupied regions of the Soviet Union, ended up in a refugee camp in Germany and, after the war, found refuge in the United States.
These are just two of the more-than-dozen programs at the USC Institute of Armenian Studies.
“The current work of the researcher archivist at the Institute reflects the spirit of Sara Chitjian’s life-long dedication to Armenian archives – especially as they relate to genocide and the post-genocide period — and the naming of the position is a fitting tribute to her legacy,” said Institute Director Salpi Ghazarian whose relationship with Miss Chitjian goes back decades. “Miss Chitjian was my 6th grade math teacher; her father was one of the first to tell his life story first to J. Michael Hagopian, then to me as a student in Professor Richard Hovannisian’s UCLA class, later again to our team at the Zoryan Institute. Each of these interviews was more extensive than the last. Miss Chitjian’s mother’s journey, too, is invaluable. Recognizing the importance of remembering that generation and their stories, Miss Chitjian has dedicated her life to helping others remember. We are indebted to her.”