Passionate About Inspiring Others
Dr. Garbis Der-Yeghiayan, President of Mashdots College, passed away on January 12 in Los Angeles due to a rapid deterioration of his health after testing COVID-19 positive.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1949, Der-Yeghiayan earned bachelor’s degrees in Political Science/Public Administration and Mathematics (Summa Cum Laude) as well as Master’s degrees in Educational Administration and International Relations from the American University of Beirut. At the age of 17, he began teaching at both the elementary and high school level in Beirut before serving as high school principal in Lebanon at the age of 22. After moving to the United States in 1976, he attended Northwestern University earning his doctorate in Human Development and Social Policy, and the University of La Verne earning a second doctorate in Educational Management. He holds honorary doctorates from five universities. He is the first Armenian American inducted into the Academy of Diaspora Sciences in Armenia.
Dr. Der-Yeghiayan is internationally recognized as a founder and catalyst of Armenian higher education in the United States. He served as dean and president, as well as professor of Education and International Relations at the American Armenian International College/University of La Verne from 1976 to 1992. Afterwards, he served for many years as president and professor of Educational Management and International Relations/Public Diplomacy at Mashdots College in Glendale, California. Eleven universities have bestowed upon him honorary professorships. He authored fourteen books on current affairs, history and education, and has presented more than 100 scholarly papers at international conferences.
Dr. Der-Yeghiayan was a visionary and dynamic community leader in Southern California. He was a peacemaker and consensus-builder and as such, highly respected by all segments of the community. He serves on 11 non-profit boards and committees, including Commissioner of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inmate Welfare Services, generously volunteering his time and sharing his talents and resources. He was the host of three weekly live television programs and was frequently interviewed by TV networks on education and international affairs. He was an ardent writer and his articles occasionally appeared in major newspapers and magazines. He was regularly invited by community organizations, youth groups and schools to serve as guest speaker and master of ceremonies.
Dr. Der-Yeghiayan was a dedicated Rotarian. He joined the Rotary Club of La Verne in 1981, served with distinction as president in 1984-85 and International Service chair 1982-84 and 1985-1998. He served as District 5300 International Service chair, 1994-1996; Rotary Friendship Exchange District chair, 1996-1998; Rotary District 5300 Peace Conference chair, 1990-present; Polio Eradication Chair, 2002-2005; Annual Giving Chair, 2004-2005; presenter at District Assemblies and Conferences; District 5300 Governor, 1999-2000; Russian Leadership Program Committee chair, 1999-2000; Literacy Task Force Zone 24 Coordinator, 2000-2001; RI Global Quest Membership Task Force coordinator, 2000-2001; Chair of Southern California-Nevada Multidistrict Presidents’-Elect Training Seminar (PETS) 2001; Membership Workshop Coordinator at RI Presidential Conference in Salt Lake City, 2001 as well as at Governors’-Elect Training Seminar (GETS) and Zone Institutes; Rotary International Membership Coordinator of Zone 24, 2001-2002; Poverty Alleviation Zone Coordinator, 2003-2005; Instructor, Presidents-Elect Training Seminar, 2004; Membership Development and Foundation workshop leader in various Rotary Districts; Chair RI Zones 25 and 26 Peace Conference, 2011-2013; Advisor to RI Director, 2011-2013. He has represented the RI President to four District Conferences in Pennsylvania, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Texas. He delivered more than 1,500 speeches to Rotary clubs throughout the world. He has initiated numerous new programs promoting international understanding. Through his efforts, the Rotary Club of La Verne was able to establish the first Rotary Club in the former Soviet Union. During his tenure as Governor, District 5300 received top awards in per capita annual giving and membership development. In 2002, at the Rotary International Convention held in Barcelona Spain, Garbis was honored as “World Champion and Most Distinguished Past District Governor.” He was also the recipient of “Rotary District 5300 Peace Ambassador” title in 2000, Rotarian of the Year award in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2006, 2010 and 2014; Meritorious Service award in 2005, Rotary’s “SERVICE ABOVE SELF” award in 2007 and “Peacemaker of the Year” District 5300 inaugural award in 2010.
In 2013, at the RI District 5300 24th anniversary peace conference, the District Governor proudly announced the establishment of the “Garbis Der-Yeghian Peace Institute” in honor and in appreciation of the District’s peace conferences dynamic and visionary founder and chair.
In March 2005, Garbis co-chaired and served as keynote speaker of the first ever Rotary International Caucasus Peace Conference held in Ankara, Turkey, and attended by Armenian and Turkish Rotarians. His inspiring speech and subsequent meeting with both Turkish and Armenian leaders led the way to numerous joint efforts between Armenia and Turkey for the first time since 1915 as well as the signing of the protocols between the presidents of the two countries in October, 2009. He was actively engaged in shuttle diplomacy between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian Authority, and Turkey and Armenia. He organized annual trips to Turkey promoting public diplomacy between Turks and Armenians. As District Governor in 1999-2000, through District 5300 Rotary clubs he sponsored 9 matching Grants projects in Turkey and was honored by the president of Turkey for his humanitarian efforts. In addition, 16 country presidents and prime ministers have honored him by issuing special proclamations in appreciation of his peace initiatives.
Dr. Der-Yeghian was recipient of more than 200 national and international recognitions and has been honored by a score of heads of States, government officials, universities and organizations. His interests included church activities, playing the violin, conducting, chess, writing and photography.
He leaves behind his wife Angela (Doctorian) and two sons, Jimmy Paul (Sports Medicine) and Johnny Samuel (Youth Pastor), and many relatives and friends.