Matty gained from our parents many of the traits that marked his character throughout life, including intelligence, wit, musical talent, honesty, and his belief that people should be treated fairly and with dignity. We loved him and admired his achievements from the beginning to the end.
When Matty Movsesian graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School, he won a prize for best paper reporting original research. At the ceremony, he also performed a song he wrote called “If We Had Only Had the Time.” That title would take on new meaning in April 2020, when Matty lost his battle with brain cancer. He was still in the prime of his life, but had already built a legacy of remarkable substance.
By so many accounts, Matty’s talents and brilliance were limitless—he graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University in just three years, going on to a fulfilling and illustrious career as a research cardiologist. Positions at the National Institutes of Health and renowned universities came quickly, as well as recognition globally for his contributions in the field.
His longest tenure was at the University of Utah School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty for more than three decades. As cardiology chief for several years, his research focused on the treatment of heart disease, specifically cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase and its role in regulating intracellular signaling in normal and diseased hearts. For much of that time, he also fulfilled a joint appointment at the VA Medical Center, where he was a favorite among patients for his skill and great compassion. During the last years of his life, he started a research company called “Sirdus” (Armenian for “My Heart”) that developed heart failure drugs. He was always so happy when asked about the name and took the opportunity to educate those individuals about Armenian history and culture.
Matty was active at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Salt Lake City. He loved The Book of Common Prayer and even wrote a hymn entitled “Jesus Knows.” During the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, he thought it was important for the non-Armenian community to know the story of his ancestors. He organized a memorial service at the church and felt proud of this accomplishment.
Though he did not have much formal involvement in the Armenian community, Matty felt pride in his heritage, which he shared with others. He and his younger brother Mark grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens. For many years, he attended St. Gregory’s Summer Camp in Cape Cod, which was run by the Mekhitarist Monks. This was where he learned to read and write in Armenian.
His father’s family had left Kharpert (eastern Turkey) before the Genocide, and his mother emigrated from Istanbul as a child. Mark remembers, “Matty gained from our parents many of the traits that marked his character throughout life, including intelligence, wit, musical talent, honesty, and his belief that people should be treated fairly and with dignity. We loved him and admired his achievements from the beginning to the end.”
After receiving his diagnosis, Matty asked Mark to prepare a few words in his memory. He stressed that his brother should discuss three things: his late dog, his friends and his jokes. He loved spending time with friends—making them laugh and sing with him brought him immense joy. He even had a digital file containing the hundreds of jokes he amassed over the years.
An active AGBU donor since 1993, Matty left a significant amount of his estate to the organization to establish the Matthew A. Movsesian Memorial AGBU Scholarship. The endowment will provide grants to Armenian medical students. Mark added, “In my family, we always understood AGBU to be the principal umbrella entity for Armenians around the world, so it was only natural that Matty would support it.”