History of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (cont.)
Growth and Maturation
From 1984, Fr. Mardiros Chevian, who had served as full-time recruiter for the Seminary for three years, was appointed Rector. Fr. Mardiros’ efforts resulted in a period of growth, record enrollment, and the most fruitful period in the seminary’s history in terms of graduates and ordinations. It was during this time that through the efforts and munificence of Louise Manoogian Simone, the seminary’s endowment fund swelled significantly. In 1986, the seminary’s bylaws were amended to include the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada as ex officio second Vice-President of the Board of Directors. This brought St. Nersess under the auspices of all three dioceses of the Armenian Church in North America that fall under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of Etchmiadzin. St. Nersess enjoyed its first pontifical visit, when His Holiness Catholicos Vazken I (†1994) included the Seminary in his itinerary during his 1988 visit to the United States. Fr. Mardiros served at St. Nersess until 1991.
Dn. Hratch Tchilingirian served as Dean from 1991-1993, working with Armenian Orthodox theologian Prof. Vigen Guroian, whom the Board of Directors appointed Academic Dean. When Dn. Hratch left the seminary to pursue doctoral studies, Fr. Arakel Aljalian, another St. Nersess alumnus, was appointed Rector. He served in that capacity until 1999. During Fr. Arakel’s term, and with the assistance of Professor S. Peter Cowe, the St. Nersess Theological Review was established in 1996 as the only English-language scholarly journal dedicated to the theology and Christian culture of the Armenian Church.
Through the generosity of a number of generous benefactors solicited by board member Dr. Raffy Hovhanessian and his wife Shoghag, the building underwent extensive renovation and expansion in 1995. Added was a more suitable space to accommodate the library of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan, bequeathed to St. Nersess upon his death in 1989. As well, the eastern wing of the mansion was remodeled to increase office space. The renovated building was dedicated by His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians, on January 14, 1996. (His Holiness graced the Seminary with a second visit on May 5, 1998).
Resident and Adjunct Faculty
Under the leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, elected Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in 1990, the Board of Directors resolved to fortify the Seminary’s Armenian Church Studies offerings by establishing, for the first time, a full-time resident faculty in 1991. In September 1997, Dr. Abraham Terian, an internationally renowned theologian and expert in medieval Armenian Christian literature and history, was enlisted as Professor of Armenian Patristics and Academic Dean. At the same time, newly-ordained Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, another seminary alumnus who had recently completed doctoral studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, was brought on board as Professor of Liturgical Studies. As part of the same movement, Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, a St. Nersess graduate and recent Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Fordham University in New York, was appointed Dean two years later.
Upon Fr. Vahan’s return to pastoral ministry late in 2000, Fr. Daniel Findikyan was appointed Dean of the Seminary. Dr. Terian and Fr. Daniel sought to elevate every aspect of the seminary’s operation in order to conform to the standards of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, the accrediting agency for seminaries and theological schools. Admissions procedures were tightened; graduate course offerings in Armenian Church Studies were augmented; adjunct faculty were appointed; a scholarly monograph series, AVANT: Treasures of the Armenian Christian Tradition, was established; the seminary’s website was vastly expanded to include a Global Classroom for distance learning opportunities; and renewed emphasis was placed on recruitment, and on parish and youth outreach initiatives. Upon his retirement from teaching in 2008, Dr. Terian was named Emeritus Professor of Armenian Theology.
In 2001 Professor Roberta Ervine was brought on board as the third full-time faculty member. Dr. Ervine earned her doctorate in Middle East Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and studied under the late Archbishop Norayr Bogharian, curator of manuscripts in the Monastery of Saints James in Jerusalem. Known for her stimulating lectures, Dr. Ervine teaches courses in Classical Armenian, Armenian Church History and medieval Armenian literature and spirituality. With its newly augmented academic forces, the seminary established an annual public lecture series on topics of relevance to the history, theology, and contemporary ministry of the Armenian Church.
Besides the resident faculty, from 2008 on, several adjunct instructors, both lay and ordained, men and women, have been teaching at St. Nersess, making the seminary a dynamic and attractive community of learning in the service of God and the Armenian Church. The instructors have included Very Rev. Fr. Krikor Maksoudian, Very Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, Very Rev. Fr. Papken Anoushian, Very Rev. Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, Rev. Fr. Arten Ashjian, Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian, Rev. Fr. Untzag Nalbandian, Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, Rev. Fr. Nicholas Porter, Maestro Khoren Mekanejian, Dr. Thomas Samuelian, Dr. Herand Markarian, Dr. Edward Mathews, Dr. Seta Dadoyan, Mr. Krikor Pidedjian, Mr. Garen Karamyan and Ms. Nectar Sarkisian Munro.
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