100 Pillars of AUA: The Story of Kris and Pamela Mirzayan
YEREVAN, Armenia ‒ The American University of Armenia (AUA) is thrilled to add a third faculty member to its 100 Pillars group. Dr. Kris Mirzayan, a visiting faculty at the Manoogian Simone College of Business and Economics (CBE), together with his wife Pamela Ascher Mirzayan, have become one of the University’s 100 Pillars.
He learned the importance of education at an early age from his father who encouraged him to continue his education and always strive to achieve higher goals. Dr. Mirzayan received his bachelor’s degree and MBA at the University of Baghdad, College of Business and Economics. He continued his studies in England, at the University of Lancaster, where he received a second MBA and a Ph.D. in marketing. Dr. Mirzayan is confident that his education paved the road for his future success, and holds a firm belief that the best investment is in the education of children. “Education is something you can give to others and it can’t be taken away from them” he said. He has passed down the same principle to his three children and five grandchildren and to the hundreds of students that he has taught over the course of his career. He was a marketing professor at California State University, Long Beach for 26 years and he also taught at California State University, Dominguez Hills for a number of years.
A lifelong educator and philanthropist, Dr. Mirzayan remains active in his beloved community. He has served on St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church’s Parish Council in Orange County and is also on the Diocesan Council of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church. Further, a plethora of educational organizations have counted on Dr. Mirzayan’s support for decades in Orange County, where he lives.
“When I look at my students at AUA, I see the future of Armenia in their eyes and through their hopes. They are eager to learn and contribute to their country and it is our duty to make education available to them,” he added. Dr. Mirzayan is the type of professor that teaches from personal experience. He ran a successful plastic manufacturing facility in Orange County for over 20 years. This phase in his career enables him to share real-life business lessons to illustrate theory with his students. His students always appreciate Dr. Mirzayan’s wisdom because he is truly capable of drawing from his own experiences to share with them.
Pamela was born in California and educated in Europe. She received her degree in history from the American College in Barcelona. She has dedicated her life to her family and the David S. Ascher MD Charitable Foundation, supporting educational causes. She was thrilled when Kris suggested going to Armenia for a semester. She thought it would be the best opportunity for them to connect with the country and give back. She loved Armenia. She was most impressed by the kindness of its people and their ambitions and dreams. “You cannot move a society forward without educating the youth,” says Pamela. She believes that “education is the equalizer that propels a country forward.” Pamela also enjoyed taking Armenian language classes as a student at AUA.
In 1992 Dr. Mirzayan traveled to Armenia as part of the Armenian Business Forum, a group that aimed to provide support to Armenia through business development after the country had gained its independence. One of the founders of AUA, the late Dr. Stepan Karamardian, a friend of Dr. Mirzayan, was part of this group. His passion for being a part of Armenia’s future ignited then and has continued throughout his life. In 2015, Dr. Mirzayan met Dr. Armen Der Kiureghian, the President of AUA, and immediately realized that AUA was the best avenue in helping educate Armenia’s youth. This also thrilled him because he saw clear progress in the country. His motto became: let’s stop talking about the village it takes to raise a child, and rather be an active member of the village. And that is exactly what he did after meeting Dr. Der Kiureghian. Dr. Mirzayan taught an international marketing course in the fall of 2017 at AUA. Upon arriving on campus in 2017, he knew the real potential and significance of what AUA does for Armenia. He said that “seeing the students on campus is a prime example of the level of talent and intellect in Armenia.”
AUA President Dr. Der Kiureghian remarked, “it was truly a happy occasion when Kris Mirzayan and Pamela Ascher were present, when the plaque recognizing them as pillars of AUA was hung on the ‘100 Pillars of AUA’ window in the entrance hall of our Paramaz Avedisian Building.” Dr. Der Kiureghian added that “Kris is the third AUA faculty member to become a pillar of the University. His enthusiasm for AUA and for his students is unbounded. He knows that by supporting the University, he is contributing towards a brighter future for Armenia. We are grateful to Kris and Pamela for this generous gift.”
Dr. Mirzayan shared some advice for his students: “excel and love the thing you are doing. There are no guarantees in life, but if you strive and excel in what you are doing, doors will open for you.” It is with this positive outlook and enthusiasm that Kris and Pamela Mirzayan live their lives and look forward to returning to Armenia and AUA every year.
The 100 Pillars of AUA is a group of 100 benefactors who contribute $50,000 to support the mission of the University. Currently, 64 loyal donors have become Pillars. Funding received through the 100 Pillars of AUA has allowed the University to hire additional internationally-sourced full-time faculty, increase funding for Professional Development Grants, and establish new degree programs. From the Center for Student Success to the AGBU Papazian Library, these contributors have allowed AUA to provide students with optimal resources and an unsurpassed level of education in Armenia.