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ND brings Gregorian to speak

Maddie Hanna | Friday, May 13, 2005

A leader, an author and a native Iranian, the multi-faceted Vartan Gregorian will address Notre Dame’s 2005 graduates Sunday at the University’s 160th commencement exercises.

Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation and former president of Brown University and the New York Public Library, will be the principal graduation speaker. This wide variety of high-ranking positions makes him an ideal selection, University President Father Edward Malloy said in a press release.

“In all his many roles in public life, Dr. Gregorian has displayed extraordinary leadership,” Malloy said. “I know that his remarks will be an ideal capstone for [our graduates’] educational experiences on our campus.”

Gregorian has served at the helm of New York’s Carnegie Corporation since 1997. The corporation, which was founded in 1911, seeks to carry out founder Andrew Carnegie’s vision of philanthropy, which Carnegie said should aim “to do real and permanent good in the world.” Awarding grants in four areas (education, international peace and security, international development and strengthening U.S. democracy), the corporation expects its fiscal year 2004-2005 grants to total over $80 million.

From 1989 to 1997, Gregorian served as the president of Brown University, where he taught freshman and senior history seminars and a course on Alexis de Tocqueville. In addition, he led capital campaigns that helped triple the endowment there.

Prior to that, Gregorian served for eight years as president of the New York Public Library – a system that has four research libraries and 83 circulating libraries. He is credited with pulling the library out of financial crisis. Gregorian was born to Armenian parents in Tabriz, Iran. After receiving his elementary education there and his secondary education in Lebanon, he enrolled at Stanford University in 1956. He graduated with honors just two years later.

In 1964, he earned a doctorate in history and the humanities, also from Stanford.

Gregorian taught European and Middle Eastern history for eight years at San Francisco State College, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Texas. He then joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty. In 1972, he became the founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences there; in 1972, he became the provost.

Notre Dame has welcomed other academic officials in the past, such as former Yale University President Kingman Brewster, Jr. in 1972, former Harvard University President Derek Bok in 1987 and Stanford Provost (now Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, a Notre Dame alumna.

Father Peter Jarret, counselor to Malloy, said Notre Dame’s emphasis on intellectualism in choosing commencement speakers reflects the University’s values.

“Given Notre Dame’s academic reputation,” he said, “that’s the type of person that would come here.”

Gregorian has received myriad accolades and grants during his career, including honors from U.S. presidents. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Gregorian with the National Humanities Medal; last year, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gregorian is the author of “Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946,” “Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith” and his autobiography, “The Road to Home.”