The great Armenian philanthropist and businessman, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, was born in 1869 in Scutari near Constantinople (Istanbul). He received his early education at the local Aramyan Uncuyan Armenian school. He then attended the Lycée Saint-Joseph French school, and continued his studies at the American Robert College before moving to Europe at the age of 14 to continue his education.
Throughout his life, Gulbenkian was involved with philanthropic activities, including the establishment of a library, a church, aid to many schools, and other institutions. He paid special attention to the Armenian communities dispersed throughout the Middle East, and especially refugees, in the wake of the Armenian Genocide.
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian spent his last 13 years in Lisbon, where he died in 1955. His final resting place is the Saint Sarkis Armenian Church in London.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was created in 1956 by his bequest and continues to promote arts, charity, education, and science throughout the world, as per the Founder’s will.
Gulbenkian accumulated his wealth through the oil industry in the Middle East, and throughout his life, he amassed a huge art collection, which became the basis of the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon.
The Armenian Communities Department, formerly named the Department for the Middle East, was set up in 1956 by two executors of the Calouste Gulbenkian’s will, Kevork Essayan, Gulbenkian’s son-in-law, and José de Azeredo Perdigão, the first Chairman of the Foundation.
The Trustee responsible for the Armenian Communities Department has always been Armenian and a member of the founder’s family. Presently the Trustee responsible for the Department is Martin Essayan, Calouste Gulbenkian’s great grandson. Previous Trustees include Mikhael Essayan, Gulbenkian’s grandson and Honorary President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and Roberto Gulbenkian, Gulbenkian’s nephew.
Since 2013, Razmik Panossian has been the Director. Previous directors have been Roberto Gulbenkian, Goriun Kechichian and Zaven Yegavian. During 2012, Astrig Tchamkerten acted as Interim Director.
Below are some of the important activities undertaken by the department over the years:
A conversation between Mikhael and Martin Essayan, where Mikhael is sharing stories of his grandfather.
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