Former AAIC dean John Khanjian returns to ULV

The former dean of the Armenian American International College, John Khanjian returned to La Verne this semester. He is teaching an Old Testament survey course after a few years in service as president of Haigazian University in Lebanon. / photo by Scott Mirimanian
The former dean of the Armenian American International College, John Khanjian returned to La Verne this semester. He is teaching an Old Testament survey course after a few years in service as president of Haigazian University in Lebanon. / photo by Scott Mirimanian

Megan Sebestyen
Staff Writer

Branden del Rio
News Editor

John Khanjian has come full circle in his teaching career with his return this year to the University of La Verne.

In 1987, he served as founding dean of the American Armenian Interna­tional College, an independent institution that was a sister college of ULV.

After leaving AAIC he served as the president of two different colleges, one in Lebanon and one in Armenia. But now he has returned to ULV, currently serving as adjunct instructor of core general education and is teaching the Survey of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures class.

“I would describe him as a very insightful and capable administrator who also has a gift of teaching in the classroom,” Al Clark, associate vice president for academic affairs, said.

Khanjian’s story begins in 1976 when a group of Armenians in Pasadena decided to start an Armenian college.

The college was housed in what has now become Leo Hall and an Armenian man was hired as the president. In order to receive accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, they recommended that the college appoint a dean. Khanjian was selected.

“This college offered majors the University did not offer such as optical engineering, computer science, and Armenian studies,” Khanjian said. “The AAIC was staffed by students who came from Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War.”

Clark worked with him during this time since Khanjian was a member of the University Committee.

However, the AAIC had a short life; in 1993, after the school’s president took a sabbatical, the school closed.

Khanjian was involved in this aspect too; as he served as the chief executive officer for closing the college. Then he began teaching part time at ULV.

As dean of AAIC, Khanjian worked with Clark.

“During the time that he was here as dean, he was extremely affirmative in academic excellence for the college that he was working to develop,” Clark said.

Jonathan Reed, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also knew Khanjian during this time.

“He was the dean of the AAIC here when I was hired 19 years ago. In fact he was on the search committee that hired me,” Reed said.

During Reed’s first years as a professor at ULV, Khanjian helped him by giving him valuable teaching advice.

“When I first started teaching, he taught me to focus on the students more than the material,” Reed said.

But in 1995, Khanjian decided to leave the University. When the Lebanese Civil War ended he was asked to be president at a college in Lebanon.

Khanjian made changes for the better during his time serving as a president there. From 1995 to 2002, the college grew from 300 to 550 students and became one of the top colleges in the country.

“My final week there I was knighted by the president of the Republic of Lebanon and received the Medal of Cedars and the title of knight,” Khanjian said.

In 2002, Khanjian’s journey came full-circle and he returned ULV.

“Since that time after his retirement from here, he continued to enhance our curriculum by teaching religious and core curriculum classes,” Clark said.

“I like teaching, I like the teachers, I mean I’ve known them for 23 years and I like the academic freedom of the campus,” Khanjian said.

Both faculty and students have welcomed his return.

“I think his primary contribution has been in the classroom as an effective teacher. And he’s helped many students understand religion in an academic way, but also in a non-threatening way. The study of religion is challenging in an academic way, but it doesn’t need to be threatening,” Reed said.

“For students he’s a role model because he’s someone who is a person of faith and has a heart for his own religion. But he hasn’t abandoned his mind and his intellect in the process.”

Megan Sebestyen can be reached at megan.sebestyen@laverne.edu.

Branden del Rio can be reached at branden.delrio@laverne.edu.

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