Above, City Councilman Paul Krekorian presents Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian with a proclamation recognizing her commitment to the students of Los Angeles.

Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian was honored Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council during a ceremony celebrating Armenian American educators for their dedication to improving the lives of the next generation of leaders.

The other honorees were Dr. Richard Hovannisian, a historian and professor emeritus at UCLA; Gabriel Injejikian, founder of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian High School; and the nonprofit USC Shoah Foundation, which records genocide survivor testimonies for educational purposes.

The City Council ceremony was sponsored by City Councilman Paul Krekorian as part of a special presentation commemorating the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. An estimated 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were systematically killed from 1915-23 in what is considered the first genocide of modern times.

“Every year, this council comes together to commemorate the commencement of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 1915,” Krekorian said. “This gives us an opportunity to mourn together an almost unimaginable loss and to honor and celebrate those who survived … It also gives us the opportunity to reflect on the lessons of injustice and impunity and what that means to us today and in the future.”

City CounciImember Paul Krekorian joins Armenian American honorees, including Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian; Richard Hovannisian, who was represented by his son, Armen; and representatives of the USC Shoah Foundation and Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian High School. (Photo courtesy Council District 2)

Speaking passionately about the killing of his ancestors during the genocide and the loss of unfulfilled potential within his culture, Krekorian said it is essential that future generations learn from the lessons of the genocide.

Krekorian described Ekchian as “the face of the Armenian community in education,” noting that she has served multiple roles – including teacher, administrator, chief labor negotiator, Human Resources director and interim superintendent – during her 32-year career with L.A. Unified.

“The leadership of that district is perhaps the most challenging public service job that any of us could ever imagine,” Krekorian said. “The service she has provided is the most important of all public services – educating the young people of Los Angeles.”

Ekchian said that preventing atrocities like those that occurred during the Armenian Genocide is at the heart of what drew her into education and has sustained her passion for her work.

“All atrocities begin with the simple act of dividing people into one of two categories – insider and outsider,” she said. “So much of human history and so much of the suffering that has been experienced has been instigated by the initial decision to say, ‘This group over here belongs, and that group over there does not.’”

“Education is one of the most powerful tools that we have to teach students how to embrace each other’s diversity rather than draw divisions from distinctions,” she said. “Think in terms of ‘we together,’ not ‘us versus them’ and open their hearts to let everyone inside so that no one is left to feel like an outcast. It continues to be my proud life’s mission to pursue this work on behalf of students and our community.”

Earlier this year, Ekchian received the Armenian Genocide Education Award from the Armenian National Committee of America. She also will participate on April 23 in an Armenian Genocide assembly at North Hollywood High School.

Click here to watch a video of the Armenian Genocide anniversary presentation at Los Angeles City Hall.