First Lady of Karabagh Pays a Visit to Campus


After an official visit to the United States along with President of Karabagh Arkady Ghougassian, the first lady, Ina Ghougassian remained in Glendale to carry out a mission of rebuilding one of the schools in Stepanakert, the capital of Karabagh. The Armenian Students Association hosted an event at GCC in honor of the first lady on Nov. 7.

After receiving a warm welcome from GCC President Dr. John Davitt, Ghougassian took a quick tour of the campus, beginning with GCC’s newest perk, the planetarium in the Cimmarusti Science Center, and ending with the cafeteria where she asked if the food was healthy.

While Karabagh struggled to break free from the oppression of Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, many Armenian lives were lost in battles and cities were destroyed. Stepanakert suffered most because Azeri Turks bombarded it from Shushi, a city in the hills overlooking the capital. The Armenians won many battles and took back Stepanakert and Shushi, along with many other cities. Once again, like in ancient times, they were able to connect Karabagh and Armenia.

Despite the joy of gaining back their land, the people of the newly declared Republic of Karabagh had a lot of healing and rebuilding to accomplish. Schools, like almost all structures in Karabagh, were in terrible condition. Unlike the United States, elementary school, middle school and high school students in Karabagh attend the same school. Ghougassian has started a fund to rebuild one of those schools, which is on a former battleground.

The school is named after Ashot Goolian Bekor, a soldier lost in a battle. It has no windows, no bathrooms, and no functional equipment. Its 1,200 students attempt to learn while faced with harsh conditions. “Our hearts are with you and with every single person who died in Karabagh,” said Nairi Chopurian, president of the Armenian Students Association.

More than 100 students and faculty attended the event hosted by ASA in the Los Robles Building. Many said words of welcome while others expressed gratitude to Ghougassian for visiting GCC. “I think it was a very good opportunity for our students to interact with the first lady of a country,” said Dr. Armine Hacopian, president of the Board of Trustees.

“Students in America are not very different form the ones in Karabagh,” said Ghougassian. “The difference is the opportunities and resources.” With her new started fund, she plans to create the same opportunities for the students of her newborn country. ASA contributed $300 to the rebuilding fund. “We just wanted to send her off with good wishes in her campaign to rebuild Bekor School,” said Chopurian.

The event stirred many emotions and cherished memories in those who had visited Karabagh. Dean of Student Affairs Paul Shlossman, President of Board of Trustees Dr. Armine Hacopian, Vice President of Instructional Services Steve White, Board of Trustees member Ara Najarian, and many others visited Karabagh in October for humanitarian purposes.

Shlossman presented Ghoughassian with a basket full of GCC memorabilia, including a GCC baseball cap for her 4-year-old son. He said that he hoped the gifts would provide pleasant memories for her, as his Karagaghian souvenirs had done for him. After the event, White showed pictures that he had taken while in Karabagh to a handful of students.

Twenty-nine-year-old Remo Alexandri, a political science major, said, “I see her as the symbol of Karabagh and I was so moved by her character and her emphasis on education.”

Impressed that the first lady was able to express herself in Armenian and English, Henan Joof, president of Associated Students, said, “As a fist lady she’s very eloquent and it shows that she’s got her country’s interest at heart.”