Edward Avedisian, clarinetist who donated $100 million to BU medical school, dies at 85 - The Boston Globe

Edward Avedisian, clarinetist who donated $100 million to BU medical school, dies at 85 – The Boston Globe

“I didn’t want anything with my name on it,” Mr Avedisian told BU in September. “But he said, ‘I will only do it if your name is attached.’ So we are attached.

Mr. Avedisian, a clarinetist who performed for decades with the Boston Pops and the Boston Ballet Orchestra, died Dec. 7 of complications from a rare lung disease. He was 85 and lived in Lexington.

“Ed Avedisian lit up our world with music and improved the lives of countless people through his conscious philanthropy,” said Robert A. Brown, BU president, for the university’s tribute.

And he did it with a smile, those close to him said.

“Ed was a fun-loving guy with an amazing sense of humor,” said his wife, Pamela Wood Avedisian, with whom he has contributed millions to schools and universities over the years. “He was always smiling and laughing.”

Both Mr. Avedisian and Chobanian had lost loved ones in the Armenian Genocide. Although the two moved away from their working-class neighborhood, Pawtucket, RI, Mr. Avedisian initially thought it made more sense to name the medical school solely for the better-known Chobanian, a renowned cardiologist and dean. emeritus of the medical school.

“Who knows me? Nobody,” Mr Avedisian told the Globe in late September, although he must have known that was a considerable understatement.

He was revered in his parents’ home country after he and Pamela announced plans in 1994 to start a public school in Armenia named after his parents, Koren and Shooshanig Avedisian School. It opened its doors in 1999, in one of the poorest districts of the capital Yerevan, with 75 pupils and now educates 1,000 a year, from kindergarten to terminale, according to his family.

“It was only recently that I realized that he was offering these children the same path out of poverty that he followed in America, but without forcing them to leave the country,” said his nephew. Craig Avedisian from New York via e-mail.

Mr. Avedisian, who has also funded a medical center and other healthcare initiatives in Armenia, donated $3 million to the Rhode Island College School of Nursing, which is now named after his sister, Zvart Avedisian Onanian.

“We wanted to give families who can’t afford the opportunity to get a good education,” he told the Globe in January, adding, “That’s what we’re supposed to do after all – reach out helping others”.

Mr. Avedisian amassed a fortune by being as attentive to the financial markets as he was to the notes on the sheet music he played in performances.

“Success is the intersection of opportunity and preparation,” he told The Globe in October, and added that “you had to do your homework.”

His preparation, including bringing financial publications and other research on any road trip with the Pops or performing with many other organizations, which over the years included the Atlanta and North Carolina symphonies, the Boston Lyric Opera, the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, the Armenian State Philharmonic, and the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia.

Although Mr. Avedisian has used his philanthropy to support Armenian music, health care and organizations in the region, he said his immigrant parents, Koren Avedisian and Shooshanig Ingilizian Avedisian, were the main inspiration for leading much of its effort and money towards schools and universities. .

“Our parents have always emphasized education. School and education were the first words I learned in Armenian and English,” he said in the January interview. “They never wanted us to work in a factory like them.”

The third of four siblings, Edward Avedisian was born in Pawtucket on June 23, 1937, and was class president at what is now William E. Tolman High School in Pawtucket.

He graduated from BU with a bachelor’s degree in 1959 and a master’s degree in 1961, both in music.

In addition to being a practicing clarinetist, Mr. Avedisian has held positions that have included Artistic Administrator of the Harvard Chamber Orchestra, and he has worked to secure union contracts for organizations such as the Boston Ballet Orchestra.

Mr. Avedisian, who retired about 20 years ago, was previously the staff director of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, which performed alongside many artists, including Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti and Big Bird from “Sesame Street”.

Among musicians, Mr. Avedisian has never worn his financial success on his sleeve, literally or metaphorically.

“He was just a regular guy,” recalls Dennis Alves, Pops’ art planning director. “He didn’t wear expensive clothes or fancy watches.”

Mr Avedisian, who taught clarinet at BU and Endicott College, met Pamela Wood at Endicott in 1973. She had decided not to pursue a career as a concert pianist and had heard he conducted the all-female choir from college.

“I walked into his class and asked him if he needed a choir accompanist,” she said.

They started dating five years later and married in 1994.

“He was full of such wisdom and always knew what to say,” Pamela said. “That’s what I’m going to miss.”

In addition to his wife, Mr Avedisian is survived by his sister, Zvart Onanian of East Greenwich RI, and his brother, Paul of Cranston RI

A memorial rally will be announced for Mr. Avedisian, who has often been honored for his philanthropy, including with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Serzh Sargsyan, former President of Armenia, twice awarded him the Movses Khorenatsi Medal, which recognizes outstanding achievements in fields such as art, culture, literature and education.

The University of Rhode Island and BU awarded honorary doctorates to Mr. Avedisian.

“Not only was he a great friend,” Chobanian said for BU’s tribute, “his death means to me that the world has lost a great humanitarian who dedicated his life to helping people in need.”

Mr. Avedisian has always insisted that the lessons taught by their Armenian immigrant parents were the basis of his and Chobanian’s successes in life, which led to their name being joined for medical school. of BU.

“Our parents told us, ‘Hey, go to school.’ So that was the call, and that was our response,” he told the Globe in September. “They’re the heroes, not us. That’s how I see it.”


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

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