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Remembering Vartan Gregorian

May 10, 2021

AAAS mourns the loss of Vartan Gregorian, PhD, who at the time of his death in April was president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. As a world-known scholar and humanitarian, his personal commitment to education in the sciences and international security fostered a strong partnership with AAAS over many decades. Ties between the Corporation and AAAS run deep. David Hamburg, MD, a past president of AAAS, served as president of Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1982 to 1997 and was president emeritus of the Corporation at the time of his death in 2019.

Sudip Parikh, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of AAAS and Executive Publisher, Science Journals said, “Dr. Gregorian had an extraordinary career and through his leadership at Carnegie Corporation of New York, he helped seed many transformative initiatives at AAAS.” For example, the Corporation provided significant funding in 2018 to launch SEA Change, which aims to advance institutional transformation in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in colleges and universities. Also in 2018, the Corporation was a founding funder, along with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others, of the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues, a program that synthesizes and distills scientific evidence on key societal issues to inform decision-making at the local, state and federal levels.

Since 1984, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has supported AAAS with more than 60 grants for education, public policy, international security and capacity-building in Africa in the sum of $17.4 million.

Shirley M. Malcom, PhD, Senior Advisor and Director of SEA Change at AAAS, has known Dr. Gregorian as a colleague and treasured friend since the late 1990s when she served on the board of the Corporation. Dr. Malcom took part in the selection process that led to Dr. Gregorian’s appointment as president of the Corporation. Said Dr. Malcom, “Vartan had more great ideas before breakfast than most people do in a lifetime.”  She remembers him as funny, charming and warm, with an outsized personality. Not only an intellectual and a visionary, Dr. Malcom recalls, he was comfortable with and could draw in people from different worlds.

As Dr. Malcom paid tribute, she expressed gratefulness for the generosity of the Corporation’s support, but more importantly, the affirmation a grant represents. Dr. Gregorian was one who embraced innovation and “had a belief in you as a person.”

Holden Thorp, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, Science Family of Journals, echoed this sentiment, saying, “Vartan Gregorian’s reach was immeasurable.  He was such an enthusiastic source of encouragement for so many, and there are legions of folks – and I was lucky enough to be one of them in a small way – who were spurred on by his limitless positivity and belief in others.”

Dr. Gregorian was a truly inspirational figure and his death is a loss to our greater society that benefited from his achievements across generations and around the world.

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