The Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America was founded in 1983 in Glendale, California. In the years that followed, driven by necessity to better serve our projects and membership, a number of AESA sections were established in the US and Armenia.
In November 1994 the AESA Office was established at the Armenian National Academy of Science. In February 7, 1997 AESA established its Michigan Section. Later that year, in October 1997, the Greater Metro Washington Area Section (GMWAS) was found. In November 5, 2000 the New England Section of AESA was created. The latter was active a few years but its activity has been reduced in recent years.
In The Beginning
On June 4, 2009, a meeting was held at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Bayside, NY, which marked the beginning of the AESA NY/NJ Section with 14 people in attendance.
Since 2007, the AESA council has carried out discussions and identified two metropolitan areas as having great potential for establishing new AESA sections; they are 1) the New York/New Jersey area and 2) the San Francisco/San Jose Silicon Valley area.
On February 13, 2008, while Shant Kenderian, PE, PhD, was president of AESA, Garo Khanarian, PhD, from NJ contacted him and indicated that he was interested in establishing a branch in the NY/NJ area. Later that month, on February 26, during his visit to Southern California, Dr. Khanarian met with several council members of AESA when he attended Dr. Kenderian's lecture on Nondestructive Evaluation, which was part of the AESA monthly lecture series. Upon his return to NJ, Dr. Khanarian and Dr. Kenderian continued their effort and began to consider locations where the AESA NY/NJ Section might meet. Trying to secure a meeting place, Dr. Kenderian contacted his childhood and very good friend, Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, who is a Vartabed with the Armenian Church and himself an engineer. Fr. Vahan offered his church hall free of charge for AESA to assemble. The hall of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church in Bayside, NY, is not considered a central location for the NY/NJ community. The line of communications remained open between Dr. Khanarian and Dr. Kenderian as they were trying to secure a convenient location and find members who maybe interested. This continued more than a year until March 2009.
On March 1, 2009, Dr. Kenderian received an e-mail via the AESA website. Vahan Tanal, PE, from NY was enquiring with regard to AESA. As they began to communicate, he indicated his interest in starting an AESA branch in NY. Dr. Kenderian established numerous correspondences with Mr. Tanal and copied Dr. Khanarian, Mr. Azad DerBedrosian (AESA President, 2009) and Mr. Vazgen Ghoogassian (AESA Treasurer, 2009, and two-time past president). Soon after, Dr. Kenderian became aware that he would be in New Jersey on a work-related trip early in June, 2009. Everyone realized that the creation of the AESA NY/NJ Section became a strong possibility.
Mr. Tanal rallied a group of Armenians who were interested and Dr. Khanarian indicated that it was time to hold the first meeting. Based on Dr. Kenderian's travel schedule, Thursday June 4, 2009, was selected to be the meeting day. Fr. Vahan offered his place for Kenderian to spend the night, the church hall free of charge, and began to contact engineers and scientists in his community and three other churches in NY and NJ. The meeting was set for 8:00 pm.
The days leading to the meeting
During Dr. Kenderian's stay in New Jersey, he communicated with Mr. Azad DerBedrosian and Mr. Vazgen Ghoogassian with regard to the details of the upcoming meeting. Mainly, they discussed the financial aspect and nature of relationship between AESA Headquarters in CA and the section in NY/NJ. Dr. Kenderian also proposed to award Fr. Vahan an honorary lifetime membership of AESA. This we found appropriate for the role he played in facilitating this meeting and for being an engineer who no longer practices his engineering on a professional level. Both welcomed the idea and blessed the notion giving Dr. Kenderian the authority to do so as a member of the AESA Executive Council and chair of the membership committee.
Attendees of the AESA NY/NJ inaugural meeting
There were a few obstacles along the way. Bayside is not the most convenient location for the NY/NJ group – many had to endure a long drive and approximately $10 of tolls to attend the meeting. Also, by the time the logistics were finalized, the meeting announcement came out only one week in advance. It was held relatively late in the evening on a Thursday night, which was the only day possible based on Dr. Kenderian's travel schedule. Despite those challenges, 12 people attended the meeting from near and far in addition to Armenia's ambassador to the UN, His Excellency Armen Martirossian, and Dr. Kenderian, who was the presenter. Most arrived early and introduced themselves to each other over a table of coffee and a large tray of assorted cookies. Fr. Vahan provided the coffee and Mr. Vahan Tanal the cookies. Mr. Tanal indicated that many others were interested in participating but were not able to make it that night. The 12 attendees and their city of residence are listed below in the order that they appear on the attendance sheet signup sheet.
Anita Minakyan - Shrewbury, MA (Student in MA but resident of NY)
Vahan Tanal - Manhasset, NY
Aret Akbork - Manhasset, NY
Garo Khanarian - Princeton, NJ
Henry Loshigian - Hauppauge, NY
A. Nurhan Becidyan - Paramus, NJ
Hirayr M. Kudyan - Oradell, NJ
Vahan Hovhanessian - Bayside, NY
Hrair Ghazarian - Bayside, NY
Ghazaros Kerjilian - Vestal, NY
Mike Candan - Bayville, NY
Edward Bekian - Queens, NY
Topics of the AESA NY/NJ inaugural meeting
The meeting started at 8:00 pm sharp. After greetings and thanking everyone for attending and making the meeting possible, Dr. Kenderian announced that Fr. Vahan is the recipient of the AESA honorary membership for life. All attendees received the AESA 25th anniversary commemorative coin. Three hard copies of the AESA 25th anniversary booklet and one electronic copy (on a DVD) were available. Mr. Vahan Tanal and His Excellency Armen Martirossian received a hard copy each; Dr. Garo Khanarian received a hard copy and the DVD; and both Dr. Khanarian and Mr. Tanalreceived additional coins to hand out to future recruits.
The meeting was interactive. While Dr. Kenderian presented AESA history, past and present accomplishments, committees, and sections, he was also answering questions. This was done while navigating through the AESA website showing its mission statement, history, committees work, membership page, a sample of our meeting minutes, and other links as the topic of discussion was steered by the questions asked. This lasted about 45-60 minutes. Following this, the attendees discussed what must be done for the NY/NJ Section to exist. The main outcomes of this discussion were as follows:
- A transparency will be maintained between the AESA HQ and NY/NJ section, where HQ will be aware of the membership of and maintain the funds and transactions for the NY/NJ section.
- The attendees preferred using the AESA HQ 501 c3 nonprofit status rather than independently establish their own. Fr. Vahan indicated that this is the type of arrangement the church branches have with the diocese and said that he would check with the church lawyers to see if this was possible for our case.
- AESA HQ will create no obstacles or burdens in the way of the NY/NJ operation. HQ will process their membership dues, donations or other funds and maintain them under a separate category - untouched. The funds would be readily available upon request. This is the type of arrangement AESA has with its committees.
- With regard to the types of activities for the NY/NJ section, they could tag along any of the AESA current projects or start something completely different. Dr. Kenderian cleared the misconception that AESA activities are limited only to the expertise of the existing committees. Any new committee could be created on as need basis. Dr. Kenderian suggested that they might start organizing lectures because that would keep their presence known in the community. He also indicated that AESA HQ will start to take into consideration the capacity that the NY/NJ Section might be able to help.
Interests of those attending the AESA NY/NJ inaugural meeting
At the end of the meeting, everyone received a membership form and were informed that they could submit the application by regular mail or electronically via the website. Everyone knew everyone by then, but they went around the table again. This time everyone stated their name, expertise, and interest with regard to the AESA NY/NJ Section. The following is the outcome of this discussion in the order it was presented.
|Henry Loshigian ||He stated that he does not like meetings but that he is interested in helping. He is a doer and will support the activities and work for the AESA NY/NJ Section.|
|Garo Khanarian||He is interested in student membership and mentoring.|
|Aret Akbork||A young professional himself, he is interested in recruiting young professionals and networking in ways that would benefit others as well as himself.|
|Mike Candan||A young professional as well, he is willing to help out in the making of the AESA in NY/NJ. He is involved with shipping containers to Armenia and is willing to help us make future shipments.|
|Anita Minakyan||A graduate student in Materials Science, she indicated that she would like to encourage sciences and engineering among young Armenians and especially women.|
|Edward Bekian ||He is interested in mentoring young people. Seeing the broad range of activities AESA has undertaken, he stressed that the NY/NJ Section should focus their goal and not broaden their activity to an uncontrollable variety.|
|Vahan Tanal||He is in construction with transportation projects. He is interested in mentoring young professionals and establishing collaborative relationships between Armenian and US universities. He is on the board for Rutgers University and is in process of establishing communications and a relationship between Yerevan State University and Rutgers.|
|Nurhan Becidyan||A Chemical Engineer, he would like to see more young Armenian engineers and scientists. |
|Hirayr Kudyan||An Electrical Engineer, he is interested in providing a networking forum for small and big businesses to match one with the other based on their mutual needs. He would like to consult on how to become an entrepreneur. |
|Hrair Ghazarian||A resident of Bayside, will help with the activities of AESA in NY/NJ.|
|Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian||Prior to his ordination and PhD in divinity, he was an Electrical Engineer by education and brief professional experience. Fr. Vahan will help with outreach to the community.|
|Ghazaros Kerjilian||He was encouraging us to take part in the ArmTech conference.|
Armenia’s Ambassador to the UN
Armenia's ambassador to the UN, His Excellency Armen Martirossian, spoke briefly thanking the attendees and AESA for their effort. He indicted that our community can help Armenia in a number of ways, many of which were addressed by AESA’s activities. He also highlighted the importance of helping Armenian universities establish collaborative relationships with American universities. His participation lasted more than one hour then he excused himself as he had another engagement to attend.
The Next Step
The group decided to meet next on July 23, 2009, in NJ or Manhattan. The discussion ended at 10:00 pm with all members beaming with optimism and excitement. They spent another 30-45 minutes engaged in casual discussions and lining up for a group photo. Upon Dr. Kenderian's return to CA, a few e-mails were exchanged between the AESA HQ and NY/NJ group including those who intended to attend the meeting but were unable to.
The second meeting was set for July 23rd at the St. Leon Armenian Church’s social hall in Fair Lawn, NJ. On June 6th, A list of objectives were defined to establish a starting point for the meeting agenda.
- The NY/NJ group and AESA will work on a press release.
- On July 23, the group will decide who will chair the NY/NJ section.
- During the following months, if not on July 23, the group will decide on the chairmanship term and method of elections.
- Collect membership dues and establish seed money.
- The group will decide on the name of the NY/NJ section. AESA uses the word "Section" rather than "Chapter". The LA operation is known simply as "Headquarters", then there is the "Michigan Section", "Greater Metropolitan Washington Areas Section" or "GMWAS", and the Boston operation was reduced to one person who is referred to as the "New England Representative".
- The group will decide on the type of activities and common interest of the NY/NJ Section. AESA HQ will also help to get the section started.
- Once a project that would interest the community has been identified, the NY/NJ Section would plan a fundraising banquet or a casual mixer.