During the Central Board of Directors meeting on July 22, 2017, prominent philanthropist and businessman, Vatche Manoukian, was unanimously elected to the AGBU Council of Trustees. A longtime supporter of AGBU, Manoukian has demonstrated outstanding leadership through the years in sponsoring major philanthropic projects and pioneering initiatives in the Armenian diaspora and Armenia.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Manoukian pursued his education in Cyprus and England. His knowledge of Middle Eastern and Armenian values, culture and traditions and his deep understanding of European corporate practices helped him launch a wide array of successful businesses in real estate operations, banking, soft drink bottling, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, renewable energy and leisure industries in several countries.
Manoukian inherited a genuine interest in philanthropy from his family, which established a strong tradition of charitable initiatives globally. Manoukian’s philanthropic projects primarily focus on education, medical research, promotion of cultural initiatives and environmental issues in addition to a special focus on the promotion of the Armenian Church and Armenian causes in general. His scholarship funds have enabled several thousand talented students lacking the financial means to further their education in graduate programs at American, British and Lebanese universities.
With the goal of exposing non-Armenians to Armenia’s rich religious and cultural heritage, Manoukian was the sole sponsor of the highly acclaimed Rome-Armenia exhibition at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, held under the auspices of the late Holinesses Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin I, and of the Treasures of the Ark exhibition held at the British Library to celebrate Armenian Christianity’s 1,700th anniversary. Longtime benefactors of the Armenian Church, Manoukian and his wife Tamar furthermore sponsored the renovation of St. Yeghishe Armenian Church of London, consecrated by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, in 2001. The construction of the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Library (Matenadaran) in Holy Etchmiadzin, completed in 2012, is one of Manoukian’s most significant contributions in Armenia. The library, an academic hub for clergy, scholars and students from around the world, is home to 80,000 books and 3,000 manuscripts.
Sharing AGBU’s mission to advance the quality of education in the diaspora, in 2009 Manoukian and his wife made a landmark donation of $11 million to the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian High School and Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, California. In recognition of his generous longtime support, AGBU President Berge Setrakian presented Manoukian with the AGBU Gold Medal in 2012. An honorary citizen of Armenia, Manoukian is also the recipient of several national awards, including the Insignia of the Prince of Cilicia (1985), the Order of St. Gregory the Illuminator (1996) and the Knight of Holy Etchmiadzin Pontifical Medal (2012).
Manoukian’s generosity extends well beyond Armenian causes. In 2016, together with his wife Tamar, he donated $30 million to the Division of Digestive Diseases of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The Division of Digestive Diseases building has since been renamed in their honor, to become the Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Medical Building.
Manoukian supported his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to fulfill his vision for Dumfries House in Scotland and its surrounding area by funding three buildings—Tamar Manoukian Outdoor Centre, Tamar Manoukian Sports Centre and Tamar Manoukian New Cumnock Swimming Pool—to help promote a healthy lifestyle for young people living in disadvantaged areas. He funded the building of the Manoukian Music Centre at Westminster School in London—renowned for the quality of its young talents—and has supported the Prince Albert II Foundation in Monaco in its efforts to protect the environment as well as the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
At the same time, Manoukian has been supporting many children’s charities throughout the world. He is a major donor to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Mission Enfance, Action Innocence, and UNICEF, where he has also sponsored their Kids Power program in Philadelphia.
More recently, touched by the plight of Syrian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland, Manoukian actively supported efforts to assist young Syrian refugees in establishing themselves abroad.
Devoting his time and resources to humanitarian, social and Armenian causes is a way for him to pay tribute and honor the memory of his ancestors who found refuge in the Middle East during and in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.