Armenian Alumnus Remembered

By Julissa Zavala

(The Collegian) – Fresno State alumnus Dr. Harry Moordigian, Jr., whose legacy of support and generosity was fondly remembered, passed away on Nov. 11 at the age of 76.

“This is the ideal type of person that gives back to the university after benefiting from the education,” said Dr. Barlow Der Mugrdechian, coordinator of the Armenian studies program. “I’m sad to see him go, because he was very much present on campus.”

Moordigian was the only child of his Armenian immigrant parents and grew up on a grape ranch near Sanger. Moordigian graduated from Fresno State and became a dentist.

Mugrdechian said that he got to know Moordigian through his involvement with various Armenian Studies program events and through his direct contributions to the program.

Due to his Armenian background, Moordigian liked learning about the history and culture through the Armenian studies program’s events, Mugrdechian said.

Mugrdechian said that Moordigian was also an avid reader and supporter of the Armenian studies newspaper, Hye Sharzhoom, and kept up with program events and attended lectures over the years.

He said that Moordigian was very invested in Fresno State, and not just in the monetary sense, but because he felt that he wanted to give back as a graduate of the university.

Moordigian’s parents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Moordigian’s mother escaped to America, but she died of cancer when he was 2 years old.

Moordigian’s mother had written a letter that spoke of the traumatizing events that she had experienced during the genocide. Moordigian then decided to donate to help people going through counseling.

Dr. Christopher Lucey, director of the Fresno Family Counseling Center, had known Moordigian for several years.

Lucey said that before Moordigian’s support, the counseling center was struggling financially. Lucey also said that Moordigian helped the center get more attention from the university, bringing the total of sessions from 500 to almost 10,000 per year.

“The students loved this guy,” Lucey said. “They called him our guardian angel, because he came through for us in a time when we really needed a lot of help.”

Lucey said that Moordigian had a big heart and cared for people struggling in the community, and that he supported the center and believed in its mission.

“His generosity, vision and kindheartedness allowed us to not only survive, but thrive,” Lucey said. “His gift to us allows us to give back to the community.”

Alcidia Freitas Gomes, executive director of the Ag One Foundation and senior development director at the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, said that because Moordigian grew up on a grape ranch, he understood and appreciated the importance of agriculture.

Gomes said that Moordigian wanted to honor his parents, so he made an endowment fund in their names to the students of viticulture and enology.  

“He so much enjoyed supporting students that were pursuing degrees in viticulture and enology,” Gomes said. “He was someone that I was very fortunate to have known.”

Gomes said that Moordigian’s final gift to Fresno State is a microbiology laboratory in his name in the Jordan Agricultural Research Center that will open in spring 2016.

“He loved Fresno State,” Gomes said. “It was important that he be able to give back to his alma mater because it helped to change his life and so he wanted to make sure that he could do the same for others.”

Armenian Assembly of America Mourns the Loss of Basketball Legend Jerry Tarkanian

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(Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)

By Taniel Koushakjian

AAANews Blog

February 13, 2015

On Wednesday, famed Universityof Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away. He was84. New first broke after son Danny Tarkanian, a former Republican candidateand UNLV basketball player himself, took to twitter. “I will miss him every day
of my life,” he said.

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Jerry Tarkanian was known
as coach “Tark the Shark,” a title attributed to the tenacious style of
basketball he coached, and the strong desire to win that he instilled in his
players. That style resulted in a national championship (1990), four NCAA Final
Four appearances (1977, 1987, 1990, 1991), four-time national coach of the year
(1977, 1983, 1984, 1990), and ten Big West conference championships (1983-92). Most
the accolades occurred as coach of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, but also include
his coaching years at Long Beach State and Fresno State, his alma mater. As the
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame puts it:

“Jerry Tarkanian beat the
odds, challenged the system, and wrinkled the feathers of basketball
traditionalist everywhere. But there is no arguing with success. His style,
charisma, and basketball IQ produced championships and turned out great players
for nearly 40 years.”

In 2013, Jerry Tarkanian
was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Interestingly, he refers to the
Armenian Genocide in his acceptance speech. An excerpt reads:

“For me this celebration we
are having makes me feel very grateful to be an American. Here, the eldest son
of an Armenian immigrant whose mother fled her homeland on horseback with only
the clothes on her back, after her father and brother were beheaded by Turkish soldiers,
it was my mother who gave me her unconditional love and many second chances. I
was 13 when my father died. My stepfather said I would never amount to anything
so much with sports all the time, and that I should look into becoming a
barber. But my mother never gave up on me. So to mom, and all my Armenian
family, especially my brother Myron and my sister Alice, thank you for your
loyalty and love all these years.”

Tarkanian inspired a lot
of people, especially Armenian Americans. “As an alumna of UNLV, I am deeply
saddened by the loss of Coach Tarkanian,” stated Bianka Dodov, Board Member of
the Armenian Assembly of America. “The Shark’s passion and devotion to the
Runnin’ Rebels inspired a generation and created a legacy that will forever
live on in UNLV, the city of Las Vegas, and college basketball,” Dodov said.

Both the New York Times
and the Fresno Bee referenced his mother’s survival of the genocide, and
provide through coverage of his life. Las Vegas Sun cartoonist Mike Smith made
this solemn cartoon about Tarkanian the day after his passing.

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In the last few days, Tarkanian
has won praise from so many notable people from so many different walks of life
that there is too much to republish here. The man was a legend and a class act.
He gave hope to his family, to his community, and to his city. It is truly
inspiring to see what the son of an Armenian Genocide survivor can accomplish
in country like America.