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New York Public Library Renames Center for Research in the Humanities in Honor of Vartan Gregorian

New York Public Library Renames Center for Research in the Humanities in Honor of Vartan Gregorian

The New York Public Library (NYPL) has announced a historic decision to rename its esteemed Center for Research in the Humanities as the Vartan Gregorian Center for Research in the Humanities. This tribute comes as a recognition of the profound and transformative contributions made by Vartan Gregorian, who served as the president of NYPL from 1981 to 1989. His pivotal role in revitalizing the institution structurally, financially, and in reputation solidified the library's status as a crucial civic and educational hub.

Born in 1934 in Tabriz, Iran, to Armenian parents, Gregorian's early life was shaped by a deep appreciation for reading and libraries. His formative years were spent working part-time as a page at an Armenian library, an experience he cherished as "a great oasis of privacy, peace, and occasional solitude," as mentioned in his memoir, "The Road to Home: My Life and Times."

New York Public Library Renames Center for Research in the Humanities in Honor of Vartan Gregorian

Gregorian's academic journey led him to the United States, where he pursued a degree in history and humanities at Stanford University before earning his Ph.D. in history. After teaching at various institutions in California and Texas, he eventually joined the University of Pennsylvania's faculty, where he held significant positions, including dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and provost.

However, it was his tenure as the president of NYPL that truly showcased his visionary leadership. Arriving at a time when the institution grappled with financial constraints and deteriorating infrastructure due to previous budget cuts, Gregorian embarked on a mission to revitalize the library. His approach involved immersing himself in the library ecosystem, engaging with staff, visiting branches, and even working at the information desk to grasp the challenges firsthand.

With unwavering determination, Gregorian spearheaded a groundbreaking $307 million capital fund campaign, rallying support from public and private sectors alike. His charismatic demeanor and persuasive advocacy not only met but surpassed the funding goal, setting a precedent for future collaborations between politicians, business leaders, scholars, and cultural figures to champion the library's significance in New York's civic and intellectual landscape.

During his tenure, Gregorian implemented crucial improvements, expanding library hours, restoring the flagship 42nd street location, introducing modern amenities like air conditioning and computerization, diversifying collections with multilingual materials, and enhancing educational programs. He transformed the library into a vibrant cultural hub hosting numerous literary and cultural events.

Reflecting on the enduring legacy of libraries, Gregorian once remarked, "It’s the library that keeps the memory, accomplishments of everybody." The renaming of the Center for Research in the Humanities stands as a testament to his enduring legacy and a gesture of gratitude for his instrumental role in rescuing and transforming NYPL. It symbolizes the library's commitment to preserving his memory and reinforcing the universal importance of libraries worldwide.


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