From immigrant to leading philanthropist

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“Our basic strategy [in the Middle East] is to support centers of expertise that train the next generation of leaders in the region.

Hillary S. Wiesner Director of the Transnational Movements and Arab Region program of Carnegie Corporation

Over the past decade, as the Arab Spring and brutal civil war in Syria rocked the Middle East deeply, the Carnegie Foundation, under Gregorian’s leadership, has emerged as one of the major funders of the scholarship on and in the Middle East. His work has included supporting the Arab Council for Social Sciences; the Arab barometer, a major public opinion research project in the region; and Athar (Portal for the social impact of scientific research in / on the Arab world), based at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. (See a related article, “Are University Rankings Relevant to the Arab World?”)

Hillary S. Wiesner, Director of Carnegie’s Transnational movements and the Arab region program, says the foundation’s goal is to build local capacity for high-level academic work. “Our basic strategy [in the Middle East] is to support centers of expertise that train the next generation of leaders in the region.

Academic esteem in the United States

Vartan Gregorian was born in 1934 to Armenian Christian parents in Tabriz, northwestern Iran. He did his elementary studies in Iran and then went to Beirut for high school at Armenian College. In 1956, he obtained a scholarship from Stanford University in California. He arrived with weak English but quickly became fluent and graduated with an honors undergraduate degree two years later. In 1964 he obtained a doctorate. in History and Humanities from Stanford.

He then embarked on a distinguished academic career, teaching history and becoming president of Brown University in Rhode Island. Along the way, he made a detour in the 1980s to serve for eight years as president of the New York Public Library. It came at a time when the vast network comprising of New York’s main Fifth Avenue research library and 83 branches in the city was dilapidated and shattered. Yet, with his contagious passion for libraries and his lobbying with the city’s social elite, he raised large sums of private and public funding, boosted the public image of the library and saved the institution.


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