Raised in the shadow of the likes of William Saroyan and Simon Vratzian, Richard Hovannisian came to Beirut to improve his Armenian-language skills at the Hamazkayin Djemaran.
He had the good fortune to study under Vratzian, Garo Sasuni, and others under the roof of the institution founded by Aghpalian and Shant. Here he was formed as an Armenian patriot.
Often in his lectures, he would recall the time he was lucky enough to rub shoulders with the cream of the Armenian intelligentsia in the most fertile nursery of Armenian thought, in a national and patriotic atmosphere whose influence on his character and in his future work as a historian was undeniable.
Richard Hovannisian was an excellent lecturer, sought out in Armenian and non-Armenian circles alike. The works he leaves behind—tomes of original research on history and politics—are taught in university settings by historians whose thesis research has been heavily influenced by Hovannisian’s work. His research work as well as his edited volumes take a place of pride in our bookshelves especially now that he is not around to produce any more of the highly anticipated books.
I do not have the pretense to introduce Professor Richard to readers, but feel the need to express my deep respect and gratitude to this great Armenian whose dedication and goodwill Hamazkayin London and the Hamazkayin Forum enjoyed. I had the opportunity to know him well and to invite him a few times to London, other European countries, Lebanon, and Armenia.
Professor Richard Hovannisian did not hesitate to undertake long journeys. Even if the trip were for a few days, he would cross the ocean, often with his wife, Dr. Vartiter, bags full of his latest publications, at his own expense. He would arrive exhausted and accept the most modest accommodations.
The mere mention that he would be speaking would fill halls with audiences from all age groups. The Hamazkayin community knew well that we could not enjoy his proximity forever and must take advantage of his knowledge and wisdom as long as it was possible. People would stand in line to get him to sign the collections of works by various authors that he had compiled. He was always pleased to see that his work was of interest to communities in faraway places.
As a keynote speaker at the Hamazkayin summer gathering of college students, alongside Herand Markarian, his presence gave weight to the Forum. The professor had a special ability to maintain the interest and attention of his audience. People posed question after question to him, wanting to learn as much as they could from him. Outside the lectures, he would accompany students on their sightseeing, meals, and evening gatherings. He was youthful with the young and respectful and patient with the people in charge. At the conclusion of the Forum he would say farewell with a smile and a promise of meeting again.
Few people are
- adulated but modest
- wise but reticent
- public but discreet
- patriotic but realistic.
It remains for the Hamazkayin family to now before the memory of Richard Hovannisian, whose patience was unlimited and whose friendship was true.