The AGBU Montreal Chapter launched its Lecture Series Program in the Fall of 2003. That year, the late Manuel Keusseyan, a literary expert, poet, and teacher, approached the then-Chairman of the Montreal Chapter, Paul Kichian, and AGBU patron Jirair Dervishian, with the idea of creating a public forum that would engage the Armenian community on various subjects ranging from the arts to politics and everything in between. Keusseyan began hosting the weekly events, occasionally joined by colleagues, and quickly gaining a core following of thirty to forty attendees every Wednesday evening for nine months out of the year.
In November 2006, when Keusseyan was befallen by an illness that would take his life a year later, Chahé Tanachian, currently the Chairman of the Montreal Chapter and of its Lecture Series, assumed the responsibility of organizing the events. While the series’ format changed – a different lecturer was invited each week – Tanachian has ensured that it maintains the spirit and energy that Keusseyan brought to it. As he commented, “this project’s objective from day one has been to present the cornerstones of Armenian culture in order to strengthen the Armenian identity in the diaspora and to better educate about the richness of Armenian culture and heritage. As a nation, we must first appreciate our own rich culture in order to present it to other nations and share it with the world community.” The series has helped share Armenian culture over the past eleven years, producing more than two hundred and fifty presentations on numerous topics, at times drawing crowds exceeding one hundred.
Both local speakers and those visiting from overseas have helped the lecture series remain varied and thought-provoking. Recent presentations include “The Armenian DNA Project” by Hrechdakian, who gave an overview of new resources that allow Armenians, especially descendants of orphans from the Genocide who are searching for relatives, to trace their genealogy. Shifting from the hard sciences to science fiction, in February 2012, Attarian, the former Chairman of the AGBU Montreal Chapter, discussed the obscure but highly interesting world of Armenian science fiction literature. A few weeks later, in March, Choogaszian led an informative talk on the legendary Armenian composers Komitas and Khachaturian.
Armenian art has also been a recurring topic throughout the series, with Rouben Malayan joining the program in April 2012 for his presentation “Armenian Calligraphy as Art,” and art critic and artist Herkelian preceding him. After receiving an AGBU scholarship, Herkelian pursued a successful career as an art critic, and pledged to give back to AGBU. Pieces from his own gallery, which he has donated to exhibition sales, have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the AGBU Lebanon Education Fund. During his lecture, Herkelian drew from his own experiences in the art world to highlight those of painters Arshile Gorky and Ivan Aivazovsky.