Akian Family: Lori Stephan, Lena Akian & Haig Akian
The strong family culture of a household truly contributes to building the culture of a nation. The Akian family exemplifies that statement and truly exemplifies the invincible family values and tradition of commitment to education and giving to the Armenian community. Zaven and Sonia Akian have been ardent supporters of AUA, as pillars, scholarship supporters, and naming benefactors of the Zaven and Sonia Akian College of Science and Engineering at AUA. Now their three children, Lori, Lena, and Haig have joined the exclusive group of AUA ChangeMakers championing the new generation of philanthropists.
“As Sonia and I became involved in assisting students in our motherland, we realized that we must take a second look at the traditional view of charity as an activity for us alone,” Zaven and Sonia reflect. “We strongly believe that involving our children and grandchildren in our charitable activities is pivotal to passing on our deeply held personal values. We believe in instilling in our children and grandchildren the love of giving while we help them develop a sense of personal responsibility.”
Lori Stephan, Lena Akian, and Haig Akian are proud to follow in their parents’ footsteps and become ChangeMakers of AUA. “Our family has been a proud supporter of AUA’s mission and the high-quality education it delivers,” Lori, Lena and Haig agree. “With the announcement of the newly launched 200 AUA ChangeMakers campaign, each of us felt it would be a great opportunity to continue our family’s support of this great academic institution. We had the opportunity to visit AUA in the summer of 2017 to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Zaven and Sonia Akian College of Science & Engineering, which was named after our parents. It was an emotional moment for our family that gave us a sense of pride, and inspired us to continue our parents’ tradition of philanthropic commitment to AUA.”
“We truly praise the efforts of current and past leaders of the University not only for their dedication towards academic excellence, but also for their vision and forward-thinking efforts in creating programs designed to enhance innovation, collaboration and applied learning,” Lori Stephan continues, discussing AUA’s world-class education. “Our world is changing rapidly, and AUA’s leadership understands that new mindsets and the right mix of competence and talent is needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. AUA students have unbelievable potential and we believe that with an AUA education they will be well-equipped to innovate, invent, problem-solve, and lead.”
“My parents instilled in us the love for education and they emphasized the opportunities that education creates for people,” Haig Akian recalls. “One of my great interests is playing the piano. It was a wonderful experience to get to play at AUA for the ribbon cutting of the College of Science and Engineering in 2017. Growing up, my family was always connected with our Armenian roots and our parents helped us understand why we needed to give and support our community. The values they have instilled in me have motivated me to join the ChangeMaker campaign and partner with AUA to provide resources for students, faculty, and staff for applied learning and problem-solving.”
Lena Akian shares her siblings’ remarks on the value of education and the significance of giving. Lena has worked as a 3rd-grade teacher at two Armenian schools in Los Angeles and understands the importance of safeguarding her Armenian heritage. “My parents have always placed a great value in education. They are aware of its benefits and how it’s instrumental to growth and change. They saw something special in AUA, its mission, its high quality education as modeled after the UC system with western principles of learning. My parents have reached out generously with scholarship funds for students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to receive an education. I’ve read some of the thank you letters written to my parents by the AUA students and was truly moved! These young hopeful minds are extremely grateful to my parents who have given them the gift of education and a chance to succeed; they explain how the AUA experience has genuinely changed their lives.”
When reflecting on the state of Armenia, Lena notes, “Armenia has such a long and rich history, rooted in strong family values, hard-working and driven people. We’ve faced many challenging times through the years and have learned to overcome adversity. I believe this has made us stronger as a people. We’ve come a long way, especially in the 21st century, but there is still so much more to do to ensure growth and advancement.”
“One of the most important and critical resources of Armenia is its human capital measured by the elements of a higher level of intelligence,” Zaven Akian asserts. “This human capital is an intangible asset with invaluable rewards that could not be listed on a company’s balance sheet. Indeed, Armenia’s resourceful human capital influences the overall productivity of the country as we produce greater economic value from a better skilled labor force. This is where AUA, through its Western style education and high academic standards that exemplify integrity and ethics throughout the organization, together with the openness of faculty/student discourse and a culture of celebrated values, has made significant impact and will lead the country to greater outputs and economic competitiveness that will further improve living standards and quality of life for individuals and communities.”
As ChangeMakers, Lori, Lena, and Haig join AUA to advance research and innovation, which will directly influence the next generation of young ChangeAgents studying at AUA who will take on key roles in moving Armenia into a brighter future.