In the summer of 2002, Linda Khatchadrian met other US college students on a trip to Armenia and discovered that many belonged to Armenian Clubs. She started Villanova's first Armenian Club in September, 2002, naming it the Armenian Youth Organization (AYO) whose acronym is the Armenian word for "yes". After a quick search of the Villanova web, she found the word "Armenian" on Bob Jantzen's home page through mention of his wife Ani and in-laws, and Linda asked him to be the official advisor so she and her friends could get started.
Linda Khatchadrian, Niherie Miller and Manan Smbatian arranged its first official activity on November 19, 2002 by sponsoring a talk by Hilmar Kaiser, a historian specializing in German-Ottoman relations and the Armenian Genocide. Hilmar is a brilliant speaker and the event was a great success, filling the CEER multimedia room with an attentive audience.
Left to Right: Linda Khatchadrian, Hilmar Kaiser, Niherie Miller, and Manan Smbatian
Like Linda and Manan, many of past and current AYO members have been graduates of the Armenian Sisters Academy, our neighbor just about a mile further west on County Line Road where it ends on their campus at the top of a long hill where it meets Upper Gulph Road in Radnor.
In the fall of 2005 Sergei (Sergey) Nersesov arrived as a new professor in Mechanical Engineering, originally from Russia (Armenian-Georgian parents), who found Bob through mutual contacts and moved him to try to reinvigorate the club in the spring semester of 2006 under the leadership of Paul Sookiasian, with Sergei joining Bob as co-advisor. A Sunday night dinner was eventually agreed upon and held at Bob and Ani's house nearby campus on April 9, 2006, with about 8 student members, Sergei, Maral and Bob's in-laws, including food prep help from ani's mom Isgouhi.
In the fall of 2006 the first (very successful) annual Armenian Food Fest took place at the MLRC, with late night food prep in bob and ani's kitchen the night before.
Haig Norian and Irina Zargarian took over leadership in the fall of 2007 when the second annual Food Fest took place in the MLRC, again with evening before prep in the bob and ani kitchen with many volunteers pitching in to help. Isgouhi and Barkev contributed the bucket of hummus, the grape leaf stuffing and the tabouleh prep, while Ani did the Armenian rice and chorak dough prep. Our assembly line rolled both grape leaves and chorak buns, with Irina in the kitchen doing eggplant. Haig ordered lahmajoun from Upper Darby and shish-kebob from another vendor. Again the event was a success, especially with other students of middle eastern origin. Music and some dancing took place.
Haig was president 2007-2008, and Irina 2008-2009 and now they are married and have a daughter!
For more history through our activities and
Facebook photos, see: