Dr. Heratch Doumanian and Sonya Doumanian have been long-time supporters of the American University of Armenia (AUA), benefitting the University’s Annual Fund through their scholarship support, and very recently, were inspired to become one of AUA’s 200 ChangeMakers, a new campaign that the institution has launched to support the growth and development of its Open Centers of Excellence. Together, with the rest of their peers in the group, they will be providing opportunities for AUA students as change agents to make lasting contributions and positive developments in Armenia. “We choose to support AUA because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘an investment in education brings the best return,” Heratch says.
Born in Alexandretta (Iskenderun), Syria, Heratch was raised in Beirut, Lebanon. His mother, Hripsime Kupelian, was also from his birth town, while his father, Ohannes Doumanian, was from Hadjin, Cilicia. His wife, Sonya Dermenjian, has her roots in Cilicia, with both of her parents, Levon Dermenjian and Angele Sulahian, hailing from Antep.
Dr. Doumanian graduated from the Medical School of the American University of Beirut (AUB) in 1957, after which he emigrated to the United States and was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as Captain in the Medical Corps from 1960 to 1962. After his military service, he continued his career in medicine, completing his training in radiology at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and a year later, his fellowship in cardiovascular radiology at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. His wife, Sonya Dermenjian, is a graduate of AUB’s Pharmacy School (B.S. 1965).
The young couple got married in 1967 and subsequently moved to Northwest Indiana, where Dr. Doumanian served as Director of the Radiology Department at Saint Mary Medical Center, as well as Clinical Assistant Professor at the Northwest Center for Medical Education. They settled down and had three children: Greta, John, and Leo — all of whom followed their parents’ path of becoming well-educated, successful professionals in their own right.
In 1994, Heratch and Sonya had the opportunity to attend the commencement ceremony for the first graduating class of AUA, which took place during the tenure of the University’s first president, Dr. Mihran Agbabian. Describing the occasion, they said, “We could see the jubilation and pride of the graduates and their parents. Seeing their enthusiasm encouraged and inspired us to support AUA.” In addition, Dr. Doumanian says, “The American education system trains students on how to analyze data and think critically. We thought that it was important for Armenian students to have the opportunity to benefit from an American education so that they could compete on the world stage.”
Heratch and Sonya encourage younger generations of philanthropists to visit the AUA campus in order to see firsthand the state-of-the-art education AUA provides, and its ability to hold its own among the best schools in the world. Dr. Doumanian draws upon words of wisdom expressed by John Waterbury, previous president of his alma mater AUB, when he says that upon spending time at AUA, one will witness ‘high ethical standards, academic freedom, analytical thinking, and social responsibility.’
When asked about the role they see AUA playing in Armenia, the Doumanians believe that the University will provide a lifeline for a landlocked country with few natural resources, connecting it with the rest of the world. “AUA’s exceptional programs in business, engineering, information technology, and public health will prepare its graduates to compete and excel on the international stage. Thus, Armenia has the potential to become a global center for commerce and innovation.”
AUA is grateful for the support of Heratch and Sonya Doumanian, and are eager to see students’ harvest from the seeds they have planted and unwaveringly continue to nourish.