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SF State to award honorary degree to educator and community leader Vartan Gregorian



Ellen Griffin
SFSU Office of Public Affairs
(415) 338-6990
(415) 338-1665


Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs


Champion of libraries and peace through understanding to receive degree at May 29 commencement

SAN FRANCISCO, April 12, 2004 -- Vartan Gregorian, the champion of knowledge and understanding who led the resurgence of the New York Public Library, presided over Brown University and now leads Carnegie Corporation of New York, will receive an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters from San Francisco State University during commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 29.

The event is a bit of a homecoming for Gregorian, whose first job after graduating from Stanford University was teaching European and Middle Eastern history at what was then San Francisco State College from 1962 to 1968. Since then, he has served on the faculty or administrations of four universities, including University of California at Los Angeles, University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pennsylvania where he was founding dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and provost, and Brown University.

As president of Brown from 1989 to 1997, he made community engagement a hallmark of his presidency and helped found the national Campus Compact which encourages campuses such as San Francisco State University to become involved in community service and service learning.

"I am deeply touched that the institution that launched my career as a teacher, nurtured my lifelong commitment to higher education and convinced me of the importance of the university in American life would bestow upon me its highest honor," Gregorian said. "I look forward to joining the community of professors, scholars, university administrators and graduates in this annual celebration of learning."

Gregorian, 69, is perhaps best known for his eight years (1981 to 1989) as president of the New York Public Library, where he orchestrated a dramatic rebuilding that made books and public access to knowledge a cause celebre among the city's social elite. In the process, he set an example for communities across the United States, repositioning libraries as democratic institutions that symbolize freedom and foster self-improvement.

"Vartan Gregorian's life has been an homage to books and the learning and insight that they make possible," said Robert A. Corrigan, president of San Francisco State University. "As a truly global citizen who recognizes the importance of honoring one's cultural legacy while respecting those of different peoples, he is a splendid role model for all of us. We are delighted to honor his legacy and example."

As president of Carnegie Corporation of New York since June 1997, Gregorian is responsible for the nation's 11th largest foundation with more than $1.8 billion in assets. Created by industrialist Andrew Carnegie for "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," the corporation supports a range of efforts to improve the life of the nation and contribute to international peace and security. These include the Schools for a New Society grant program aimed at redesigning urban high schools to participate in a knowledge-based economy and Teachers for a New Era, which encourages bold reforms in teacher education, along with programs to promote literacy and school reform, strengthen U.S. democracy and civic participation, and promote international development, peace and security.

Born and raised in the Armenian enclave of Tabriz, Iran and further educated in Beirut, Gregorian went on to earn a bachelor's and doctorate in history from Stanford University. In his autobiography published in 2003, "The Road to Home -- My Life and Times," the much-traveled Gregorian said he considers himself "truly a son of New York City," where he currently lives with his wife, Clare. They have three grown sons -- Vahe, Raffo and Dareh.

Gregorian joins a distinguished list of recipients to receive an honorary degree from San Francisco State University, including South African President Nelson Mandela, Bay Area philanthropist Richard N. Goldman, actor Danny Glover, singer/activist Peter Yarrow, Japanese American artist and teacher Ruth Asawa and labor journalist and historian David Selvin.

California State University (CSU) campuses nominate honorary degree recipients to recognize meritorious and outstanding service to the CSU, the campuses, the state of California, the United States or to humanity at large. The recipients are also individuals whose lives and achievements should serve as examples for CSU's diverse student body.

One of the largest campuses in the CSU system, SFSU was founded in 1899 and today is a highly diverse, comprehensive, public and urban university.


NOTE: Vartan Gregorian may be contacted directly at (212) 207-6273. For a photo of Gregorian, contact Ellen Griffin, SFSU Office of Public Affairs at (415) 338-6990 or


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Last modified April 13, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs