Armen Aroyan’s commitment to Armenian history, culture, music and its ancestral homelands is steeped deep in his family history. Armen’s maternal grandmother and grandfather as well as his paternal grandmother were all born in Antep. Armen’s grandfather, secured a job with a British firm and moved to Cairo. Beginning in 1895, some Armenian families had left Antep and had settled in Cairo. Armen’s father married another Aintepsee and Armen was born. After Armen’s mother died in 1977, Armen brought his family to America. Armen continued his studies in the Unites States and received an Electronic Engineering Master’s Degree from USC.
In 1990, Armen’s employer, McDonnell Douglas, downsized and Armen longed to pursue other opportunities. Armen Aroyan’s first expedition into the interior of Turkey had begun earlier in 1987 to Antep, his own ancestral land. “I recognized that visiting these places had special meaning for me. And I thought, why not help others experience the same satisfaction”.
The first time Armen Aroyan officially took a group of Armenians to visit the villages of their ancestors was 1991. At that time, he wasn’t sure if this was a one-time visit, but it came after a few trips he had undertaken with a small group of friends. Over the next 27 years, there were approximately 100 more trips and 1,480 travelers to the historic homelands. Armen was singularly successful in guiding these pilgrimages because he dealt in a low-key manner with the Turkish inhabitants and won them over with his smile while he searched for remnants of old Armenian homes and churches.
Over time, he extended the scope of his trips by discovering the small villages that his pilgrims yearned to visit. Armen has brought Armenians from the U.S., France, England, Australia, Canada, and Lebanon and even from Armenia to their ancestral lands in what is now present day Turkey. More than anything, he enjoyed seeing the joy and pleasure in the eyes of the people he took there—the descendants of genocide survivors—as they experienced the life-altering event of walking where their parents and grandparents had once walked.
He explains the importance to him of the poem “My Death” by Bedros Tourian, especially the last two lines: “When from the world my memory fades away / that is the time when I indeed shall die!” Armen has lived by this ideal all of his life. He states:
“First and foremost, last but not least, it is all about keeping the memory of our rich legacy alive and propagating it for future generations”.
Armen Aroyan has deeded the approximately 400 hours of video recordings of his pilgrimages to Historic Armenia to the USC Institute of Armenian Studies to be digitized, indexed, and made available to researchers worldwide. He continues to support organizations which are dedicated to the preservation of the Armenian language, heritage, culture, religion as well as many other philanthropic causes.