Oral history interview with Vartan Gregorian, 2013
President, Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Scope and Contents
In this ten session interview, Vartan Gregorian provides a wide-ranging reflection on his personal and professional backgrounds, his priorities leading the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY), and the underlying philosophies that have informed his work. Many topics recur in different contexts across interview sessions.
Gregorian discusses his youth in detail, including: his early life in the Armenian Quarter of Tabriz, Iran; his family and the influence of his grandmother; his move to Beirut, Lebanon; and his love of poetry. He discusses his education and his undergrad years at Stanford University, with a focus on his studies and cultural differences he observed between the United States and Armenia. He discusses meeting his wife Clare Gregorian, their life as a young couple, and their travels together.
Gregorian describes his professional life before becoming president of CCNY. He discusses being a professor at San Francisco State University in the 1960s, and looks at the campus political climate and his teaching style. He discusses his roles at the University of Texas, Austin and as dean at the University of Pennsylvania. He also discusses his work as president of New York Public Library, detailing the library's administration, fundraising, and programming with New York City's public schools. He also describes his time as president of Brown and controversial events on campus during his tenure.
Gregorian also reflects on his time at CCNY. Some topics covered are: the corporate culture of CCNY; CCNY's global outlook; funding; Gregorian's grantmaking philosophy; and changes that he implemented in Board of Trustee operations. He also discusses initiatives of the Corporation during his tenure including higher education in Africa; the Carnegie Scholars and study of Islam; higher education in Russia and former Soviet Union; elections reform; and partnerships in journalism, civics, and citizenship. Gregorian also discusses Afghanistan in great detail. He analyzes his PhD work and monograph on the country; his travels there; the country's history; the United States' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; and Carnegie projects in Afghanistan.
In additon, Gregorian elaborates on broader historical, literary, and philosophical topics. These include his personal thoughts on learning and respect; the history of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora; his research on the Soviet Union and travels there; his autobiography; the role of Islam in the world; nationalism; the effects of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; and the history of US foreign policy.
Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2015.