The creation of the Center for Armenian Research and Publication at The University of Michigan-Dearborn (Knights of Vartan Endowment, Armenian Research Center), was due to the vision of Dr. Dennis R. Papazian and other far-sighted members of the Knights of Vartan, a North American fraternal Armenian organization, who desired to establish a facility devoted to documentation and publication in the field of Armenian studies and research which would be attached to a well-known and highly respected American university.
The Center would be dedicated to documenting the Armenian Genocide and current Armenian issues, and establishing a resource center available to students, faculty, and the public. It was to engage in anti-defamation work and was to inform opinion makers, officials and the public regarding issues of interest to the Armenians.
The Center received initial start-up money ($25,000) from the members of the Knights of Vartan Nareg Lodge, No. 32, Detroit, and a further grant of $75,000 from the Knights of Vartan Grand Lodge in 1985, under the leadership of then Grand Commander Kachadoor Kazarian. The Grand Lodge has continued to support the Center with annual gifts.
Dr. Papazian then sought to augment the original donations through private contributions to create a $1,000,000 endowment to ensure the continuation of the Center in perpetuity, through spending only the interest generated by the Knights of Vartan endowment account. Since only the interest is spent, the annual budget is modest. Many Knights (asbeds) responded to the call, including the late Edward Mardigian who generously donated $500,000 as a challenge grant (and an additional $375,000 for the campus library). That challenge was finally fulfilled in 1993, when, due to the efforts of then Grand Commander Kegham Tcholakian, Past Commander Suren Fesjian pledged $100,000, which completed the endowment in a two year period. Asbed brothers and their friends have thus contributed $300,000 over the past eight years through annual solicitations, finally reaching the goal of $1,000,000.
The Armenian Research Center was originally housed in the campus library. Pleased with the work of the Research Center and with the aforementioned generosity of the Mardigians, the then Chancellor of the Dearborn campus, William A. Jenkins, recommended to the President and Regents of the University that they name the campus library, the Edward and Helen Mardigian Library. The Regents approved this name change the following year. The Armenian Research Center received a separate identity in 1989, when it relocated to a building on campus now called the CASL (College of Arts, Sciences and Letters) Annex. The Center is now housed in the ASC building.
Mr. Gerald Ottenbreit, an expert on Armenian history, is chief researcher at the Center. The Center is also served by student interns and researchers, especially by the Dr. and Mrs. George and Isabelle Elanjian scholarship recipients.
The Armenian Research Center will soon be receiving substantial help from the higher administrators of the University, who see the Center as a bridge to the former Soviet republics, especially Armenia, a republic which has moved speedily towards the practice of democracy and the introduction of a free market economy. The administration of the University has pledged $500,000 from a current fundraising drive to the Center for current operation expenses.