Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, died today in Manhattan at the age of 87. He had been hospitalized for tests related to stomach pain, according to an advertisement on the Carnegie website.
A former professor and provost at the University of Pennsylvania who was a finalist for the highest post at Penn in 1980, he served as president of Brown University from 1989 to 1997. Under his leadership, Brown’s endowment grew from $ 400 million to $ 1 billion. the faculty added 270 members. He also teaches history classes, including a seminar on Alexis de Tocqueville.
From Brown he went to Carnegie, the foundation created by thief Baron Andrew Carnegie in 1911. A granting organization that promotes education and peace, it had an endowment of $ 1.5 billion when Gregorian joined it. . The endowment has since climbed to $ 3.5 billion.
He is best known for his time as head of the New York Public Library from 1981 to 1989. When he took the job, the library system deteriorated and his finances were in disarray. He raised $ 327 million through a public-private partnership for its 83 outstanding branches and four research libraries and presided over a $ 45 million renovation of the main branch at 42nd St. “[T]The library is not a cost center! He is quoted as saying. “It is an investment in the past and the future of the city!”
Born in Iran to Armenian parents, he was the first immigrant to head the library. Her father worked as an accountant and her mother died of pneumonia at the age of six. He and his little sister were brought up by their illiterate maternal grandmother. After studying in Beirut, he obtained a scholarship to Stanford where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in history and humanities in two years and then a doctorate. Before joining Penn’s faculty in 1972, he taught at San Francisco State, UCLA, and the University of Texas.
In addition to his work in scholarship, teaching, and leading universities and nonprofit organizations, he has advised philanthropists including Walter Annenberg, executives of J. Paul Getty Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates. He has won numerous awards throughout his career, including President Bill Clinton’s National Humanities Medal and President George W. Bush’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. He has written three books, including volumes on Afghanistan and Islam and a 2003 dissertation, The way home: my life and my time.
He is survived by a sister, three sons and five grandchildren.