Vartan Gregorian


Vartan Gregorian : biography

April 8, 1934 –


Prior to receiving his PhD, Gregorian had already begun teaching European and Middle Eastern history at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) upon returning to California from Afghanistan in 1962. He left San Francisco State in 1968 and for a brief stint served as Associate Professor at UCLA. That same year he joined the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin, where he remained until 1972. He received the title of Professor at UT Austin, and also served as the Director of Special Programs (Plan II Honors) there from 1970–1972.. June 24, 1997 (retrieved September 5, 2006).

Gregorian had been recruited to UT Austin by John Silber, then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who was eventually fired at the urging of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university, Frank Erwin, over a disagreement about whether to increase the university’s student population and expand the university. Gregorian himself resigned in protest of the issue, but did not follow Silber and a number of other faculty members in their exodus to Boston University. Rather, in 1972, Gregorian accepted the position of Tarzian Professor of Armenian and Caucasian History and Professor of South Asian history at the University of Pennsylvania, an endowed professorship which allowed him to teach Armenian, South Asian, and European intellectual history.

In 1974, Gregorian was named Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, the first person to hold this position. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences brought together 28 departments, 33 graduate groups, eight special programs and offices, 528 faculty members, some 5,500 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students, making it the largest single component of the university, In 1978, Gregorian became Provost, chief academic officer of the university.

New York Public Library

Following his stay at Penn, Gregorian found work outside the university walls. The New York Public Library had suffered budget cuts in the 1970s and, facing a vacancy in its presidency, needed a candidate who could raise money and revitalize the library. After some period of unsuccessful search, Gregorian was approached; of Gregorian, then library board chairman Andrew Heiskell said: “out of nowhere, a new candidate appeared. Instinctively I knew he was it.”

Gregorian arrived in 1981, facing deficits and a deteriorating architecture. Eight years later, the operation budget had doubled, four hundred new employees were hired, the buildings were cleaned and restored, and $327 million had been raised, including some $70 million in gifts-in-kind from individual collectors and benefactors. Local philanthropists and city leaders also agreed that Gregorian restored the NYPL into a cultural landmark. He left the library in 1989, “eager to return to the academic world.”

Honoris Causa degrees

Vartan Gregorian has received nearly 70 honorary degrees. Below is a partial list.

  • American University of Beirut
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
  • Brown University
  • City University of New York
  • Dartmouth College
  • Drew University
  • Fordham University
  • The Jewish Theological Seminary of America
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • The Juilliard School
  • Keio University
  • New York University
  • Rutgers University
  • San Francisco State University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Miami
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of St. Andrews
  • University of Edinburgh

Brown University

Vartan Gregorian was formally inaugurated as president of Brown in 1989. During his tenure, he instituted the President’s Lecture Series, which brought prominent scholars, leaders, and authors to campus. He presided over the building of a residence quadrangle that now bears his name, and taught classes. He often spoke admiringly to the Brown community of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Gregorian also led a capital campaign that raised well over $500 million. By the end of his presidency, Brown’s endowment had passed the $1 billion mark.