ACOM Book Club September Meeting 2021

ACOM Book Club for SeptemberThe ACOM Book Club met on Thursday, September 16, 2021. This month's meeting was held in the back yard garden of Joe Tashjian's house. Attendees were Joe, Francis, Tom, Margaret, Jim, Peter, Cynthia and me. Joan attended remotely via Zoom.
The book for this month was "The Road to Home: My Life and Times" by Vartan Gregorian.
One of the opening comments was that Vartan Gregorian must have had a very good memory. He includes a lot of detail in his book.
It was noted that he just died in April of this year, at age 87.

He served in several highly visible positions in the U.S. He taught at the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State College, UCLA, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Pennsylvania. He became provost of the University of Pennsylvania. He then taught at New York University, after which he became president of New York Public Library for 8 years. From there he moved on to become president of Brown University for 8 years. After that, he served as president of the Carnegie Corporation until he retired.

Gregorian was born in Tabriz in Persia and spent many years in Beirut. Francis was very familiar with both Tabriz and Beirut and commented on them. Francis compared his early years to those of Gregorian, including the beatings at school and the requisite brass knuckles. Others in the group also recalled their teachers using rulers or paddles to punish students.
Joe thought that Vartan's recounting of his experience with his first girlfriend was a bit odd.
One quote from the book which was mentioned was "There are a lot of irreplaceable people in cemeteries." This is used to show that nobody is 'irreplaceable'.
Several of us agreed that Gregorian seemed to be very "full of himself". He seemed at times to be outright bragging about how wonderful he was in the book and tended to repeat many compliments that other people expressed about him. An example was that when Brook Astor threw a party to welcome Gregorian as the new president of the New York Public Library, he noted that she had just thrown a similar party for President Reagan and that the list of attendees was pretty much identical. He listed all of the attendees in his book!
Tempering this view was Andrea's comment in an email that his public tone changed after he was passed over as the choice to become president of the University of Pennsylvania. He was so bitter about how he was treated that he over-compensated. In thinking about it, I have to agree with her.
Margaret made the comment that Gregorian's wife, Clare, must have been a fantastic person. When you look at all of the unusual situations that Gregorian put her in, you can see why she thinks so.
Tom noted that Gregorian showed his character when he refused to leave his position as provost of the University of Pennsylvania after only two years when offered the presidency of Berkeley. It would have left Penn in a very unstable situation, and Gregorian sacrificed himself for Penn. That made it even more insulting when they didn't offer him the presidency of Penn a few years later.
Joe mentioned that the provost of the University of Minnesota faced a similar choice a few years ago. In that case, the provost chose to leave.
At this point the discussion wandered off into print books versus e-books, the number of people who take time to read, whether pomegranates grow on trees or bushes, and other interesting topics.
The weather was wonderful, the garden was beautiful, the meeting was enjoyable.
Next month's meeting will be on October 21st. The location and book to be discussed are both TBD.
I hope to see you there.

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