Nigol and Eleonore Koulajian have built their lives around the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of yoga and meditation. Drawn to the personal transformations that have occurred by making yoga and meditation part of their lives, the Koulajians have also been guided by an essential tenet of their practice: bringing greater peace and clarity to the world through the development of the individual. Through their NOK Foundation, they are contributing to spreading this philosophy with generous donations to AGBU, helping to develop individuals in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and across the diaspora in the process.
Nigol and Eleonore came to Eastern religions and philosophy from two unlikely paths. Nigol was born into the Armenian community of Beirut in 1967 and came to the United States at the age of sixteen. After earning his BS in electrical engineering from Notre Dame University and his MBA in finance from Columbia Business School, he embarked on a career in finance that ultimately led him to establish his own quantitative investment firm in New York, Quest Partners LLC, where he currently serves as chief investment officer.
Eleonore (née Mangin) was born in London and lived in Geneva and Paris, before moving to New York to continue her career in international development at the United Nations. Working as a consultant with non-governmental organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, she saw firsthand the importance of a grassroots approach to development and the great social impact of investing in individuals: “I was looking to help people first and foremost and was frustrated that, at a large organization like the UN, it was difficult to see the results of action. I slowly began to see that so much change happens internally and decided to devote my efforts to teaching yoga and meditation to serve people at a deeper, more personal and transformative level.”
To this end, the Koulajians founded the NOK Foundation in 2002 to cultivate the study of Eastern religions, philosophies and yoga. A principal aspect of these practices is to promote ethics and values as a self-sufficient means to quiet and purify the mind and bring integration, creativity and efficiency to the individual and to the society at large. The foundation also seeks to encourage the pursuit of self-inquiry and meditation to achieve these goals.
The couple sees their donation to the AGBU as a way of furthering their foundation’s mission and showing gratitude for their successes all the while strengthening the Armenian community—in part for their two sons, Theodore, age six, and Soham, age four. “It has impressed me the way AGBU supports Armenian culture and traditions, which is exceptionally important in the diaspora. The transparency and efficiency of the organization as well as its focus on the development of Armenians the world over enables it to bring about real social change in the Armenian community—starting at the individual level,” says Nigol.
The Koulajians’ donation allows AGBU to expand its general programs around the world—from internship programs and summer camps to young professionals groups and sports teams. These activities—big and small—all touch the lives of each individual participant, helping to bring purpose, clarity and peace to their lives. For the Koulajians, the benefits of the integration of the Armenian community as modeled by the AGBU is an inestimable wealth that they would like to see at large throughout all cultures.
Look out for the Winter 2017 issue of the AGBU News Magazine for more stories of donors like Nigol and Eleonore.