Over the past decade, as the Arab Spring and Syria’s brutal civil war have deeply shaken the Middle East, the Carnegie Foundation, under Gregorian’s leadership, has become a leading funder of scholarship on, and in, the Middle East. Its work has included support for the Arab Council for Social Sciences; the Arab Barometer, a major public opinion research project in the region; and Athar (Portal for Social Impact of Scientific Research In/On the Arab World), based at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. (See a related article, “Are University Rankings Relevant to the Arab World?”)
Hillary S. Wiesner, director of Carnegie’s Transnational Movements and the Arab Region program, says the foundation’s aim is to build up local capacity for high-level academic work. “Our core strategy [in the Middle East] is to support centers of expertise that are training the next generation of leaders in the region.”
Academic Esteem in the U.S.
Vartan Gregorian was born in 1934 to Christian Armenian parents in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz. He completed his elementary education in Iran and then went to Beirut for secondary school at the Collège Arménien. In 1956 he won a scholarship to Stanford University, in California. He arrived with shaky English but quickly became fluent and received an undergraduate degree with honors two years later. In 1964 he was awarded a Ph.D. in history and the humanities from Stanford.
He then embarked on a stellar academic career, teaching history and rising to become president of Brown University, in Rhode Island. Along the way, he took a detour in the 1980s to serve for eight years as president of the New York Public Library. He arrived at a time when the vast network comprising the main research library on New York’s Fifth Avenue and 83 branches in the city was dilapidated and broke. Yet with his infectious passion for libraries and his lobbying with the city’s social elite, he raised large sums of private and public funding, reburnished the library’s public image, and rescued the institution.