The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is proud to announce a new research and scholarships fund in Armenian studies, made possible through the generous contribution of Mr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO and Mrs Hilda Kerkyasharian.
The Kerkyasharian and Kayikian Fund will support awards, grants and scholarships for honours students, postgraduate students and academic staff at the University of Sydney carrying out research related to Armenian history and culture, from the 19th century and earlier.
Special guests in attendance at a recent event celebrating the $250,000 donation included The Hon. Bob Carr as guest speaker and Transport Minister for NSW, The Hon. Gladys Berejiklian. Ms Berejiklian is a graduate of the University, as are several members of the Kerkyasharian family.
“Armenia is not very well known in the modern world. A lot of this nation’s rich history and culture is not well understood in academic circles. Through the establishment of this Fund we will be able to assist those that want to learn more,” said Mr Kerkyasharian.
“For example, there are very interesting synergies between Sumerians and Hittites and there is emerging evidence that the Armenian language has a connection with the ancient Sumerians. It is important that research is undertaken not only for the benefit of Armenians but for the benefit of humanity.”
Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said he is delighted at the new fund and donation from Mr Kerkyasharian.
“We are enormously grateful for this gift, which is a remarkable act of faith in the power of the humanities to contribute to the ongoing dynamism and resilience of an extraordinary culture,” said Professor Ivison.
“This is the perfect fit between a far-sighted philanthropist and distinguished public servant on the one hand, and a Faculty deeply committed to the role that research in the humanities and social sciences can contribute to the public good on the other.”
Mr Kerkyasharian has previously made a significant contribution to the Australian community in the area of multicultural affairs, anti-discrimination and community relations. He was Chair and CEO of the Community Relations Commission, founding head of the Radio Division of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and played a key role in helping to improve community relations in response to the 2005 Cronulla Riots.
In 1992, he was made Member of the Order of Australia (AM). The International Olympic Committee conferred the Order of Merit on him in 2000 and in 2012 he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO). He has also received honorary doctorates (Doctor of Letters Honoris Cause) from the University of Sydney and the University of Western Sydney.
Mr Kerkyasharian is of Armenian heritage and was raised by refugee parents who survived the Armenian genocide. Mrs Kerkyasharian is also the grandchild of the survivors of the Genocide and are motivated by their own experiences and heritage to make a contribution to tertiary education. Mr Kerkyasharian believes the new fund is important not only to further Armenian studies research but for people to understand history and to learn from intolerance in society.
“I think that by offering scholarships in Armenian studies we honour our families but more importantly, we hope it will help people to understand each other and live in harmony through that understanding, because people can learn from our history,” said Mr Kerkyasharian.
“Racism and prejudice are the products of ignorance and are often exploited by those who should know better but have a geo-political agenda. Education is one of the best counters to racism and prejudice.”