Vartan Gregorian (1934–2021), Trustee Emeritus, Inspiration to All

Vartan Gregorian, Trustee Emeritus, lifelong champion of education, and renowned global intellectual, has passed away this week at the age of 87.

Gregorian served on the Institute’s Board of Trustees from 1987 to 2013 with an unmatched appreciation for the IAS mission and its commitment to advancing knowledge. He once described IAS as the “university to universities,” and as a Trustee worked tirelessly to cultivate this reputation at a global scale. He continued to actively serve IAS as Trustee Emeritus over the past years.

With an unshakable work ethic, Gregorian was a lifelong advocate for education and the transmission of knowledge. He had the highest respect for teachers, journalists, and librarians and was singular in his accomplishments to fortify such pillars of truth in society. He once described the sole function of education as providing an “introduction to learning.”

Robbert Dijkgraaf, IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor, referred to Gregorian as “An ambassador-at-large for scholarship, philanthropy, and the common good,” adding, “It is hard to think of a more inspiring example to us all.”

Gregorian served as president of the New York Public Library from 1981 to 1989, securing the needed funds and imparting the vision necessary to revive the struggling institution. He was equally impactful as president of Brown University from 1989 to 1997. He has been recognized with more than 70 honorary degrees and dozens of significant awards, including the National Humanities Medal (1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2004). Vartan had served as president of the Carnegie Corporation since 1997.

Gregorian earned B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Stanford University in 1958 and 1964 respectively. He went on to join the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania in 1972, became the founding dean of Penn’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1974, and subsequently served as the 23rd provost of the university from 1979 to 1980.

An Armenian born in Iran, Gregorian moved to the United States at 22. His life experience ingrained in him a solid constitution and seemingly limitless energy for advancing immigrant rights and international peace.


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