More than 300 gathered for an evening of celebration, recognition and reflection at the Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region’s (ANCA-ER) 6th annual banquet, where Armenian studies luminary Dr. Richard Hovannisian and Artsakh rights champion, her ladyship Baroness Caroline Cox were bestowed the organization’s highest honors.
After successful events held annually in New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, New Jersey was the site of the December 1st banquet with the festivities held at the beautiful Sheraton Crossroads in Mahwah.
Among the special guests of the evening was New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, who praised the grassroots efforts of the ANCA and paid tribute to Dr. Hovannisian and Baroness Cox with Community Service Awards. “One of the best things about the ANCA is the different programs they have and how they educate and get young people involved,” said Rep. Pallone. “As the founder and co-chair of the Armenian Caucus in the House (of Representatives) for so many years, I will tell you that without the ANCA, grassroots activities of the Armenian community would really be very minimal.”
National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) Director of Academic Affairs Dr. Marc Mamigonian gave a moving introduction about Professor Richard Hovannisian, the Vahan Cardashian Award recipient.
“He (Hovannisian) is among the first generation of scholars who shaped the field that was in its infancy when he began teaching at UCLA a half century ago. In 1969, he became the first professor of modern Armenian studies in the United States. … You may have heard that professor Hovannisian is retired. Friends, don’t believe him,” Mamigonian joked.
Dr. Hovannisian, a professor of Armenian and Near Eastern Studies at UCLA, is a pioneer of Armenian studies in the United States. He has authored many books and edited and contributed to at least a dozen other works. In 1987, he was appointed the first holder of the Armenian Educational Foundation Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History at UCLA.
“I’m deeply honored and thankful to the ANCA for considering me worthy of receiving this award. Vahan Cardashian remains a champion and a symbol for the Armenian people. I feel very satisfied after my long career, and I feel rewarded that I’ve had more than a half century of wonderful experiences in the classroom teaching generations regarding Armenian history and identity,” Hovannisian said.
Ms. Virginia Davies, a longtime friend and supporter of the ANCA, introduced Baroness Caroline Cox before presenting her with the ANCA Freedom Award.
“Karabakh has known no more committed and no more constant friend than Baroness Cox. From a position of great influence in the British House of Lords, Baroness Cox has spent 25 years educating, advocating and leading humanitarian efforts on the ground in Karabakh,” said Davies.
Baroness Cox came to the podium to a standing ovation, like Hovannisian, and warmly greeted those in attendance. She presented a brief slideshow as well, showing photos from her travels to Karabakh and offering inspiring thoughts for the future.
“Speaking in the British parliament is a place to give voice to the voiceless, to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. … I would like to say thank you to the Armenian people, who in that holy land of Artsakh have formed that front line of faith and freedom for the rest of the world. We who live in freedom, we who call ourselves Christian, owe you a debt of gratitude for holding that front line for us. With all my heart, I thank you,” the Baroness said.
Baroness Cox has visited Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh 78 times to date, many of them during the war with Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, and is planning on at least two more visits in 2013. Working with the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), she helped establish the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Centre in Stepanakert in 1998, which has become a leader in providing care and rehabilitation for those with physical or mental disabilities. It looks after babies, children and adults who have been disabled from birth as well as patients suffering from war injuries, accidents and illnesses such as strokes.
The Center is internationally recognized as a “Center of Excellence,” disseminating its wide-ranging therapeutic repertoire far beyond Karabakh to other countries throughout the South Caucasus.
Baroness Cox was awarded the ANCA Freedom Award for her undying support of the Armenian people and for her dedication to human rights for all. She has traveled to many other countries, particularly those affected by severe human rights violations, to provide aid to those in need.