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Gerard L. Cafesjian

Gerard Leon Cafesjian (1925-2013) was a businessman and philanthropist who founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation (CFF), the Cafesjian Museum Foundation (CMF) and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.

G. Cafesjian was born on April 26, 1925 in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. His parents had come to the United States preceding the Armenian Genocide by the Turks in 1915.

After amphibious training, he served in the United States Navy in WWII aboard JP Morgan’s yacht, the Corsair III, built in 1895 and renamed the USS Oceanographer. The ship did extensive survey work in and around Guadalcanal and other Solomon Islands. He also served aboard the USS Andres (DE45), a destroyer escort for convoys from the United States to North Africa. When he returned after the war he married Cleo Thomas, a nurse he met during the war. He earned a degree in economics from Hunter College, and a doctorate of jurisprudence from St. Johns University Law School, both in five and a half years. He was a member of the New York Bar Association.

He began his career with West Publishing as a legal editor in New York City. He was the first employee in the history of the 100-year-old company to be transferred from any subsidiary company into the home office in St. Paul, Minnesota. At West Publishing he rose through the ranks to the position of executive vice president; overseeing sales, marketing, customer service, public relations, all Westlaw office training and development. At West, he also conceived of and started the West Legal Directory and a well-known program, “Art and the Law”, which earned him and West numerous awards.

G. Cafesjian retired from West Publishing when it was sold to Thompson Publishing in 1996. He felt his destiny was to help the country of Armenia, which had gained its independence after hundreds of years of subjugation under various rulers. The time and circumstances and confluence of resources would help him make a difference for the country.

After attending to his family needs, G. Cafesjian established the Cafesjian Family Foundation. Through that Foundation he devoted millions of dollars to Armenia on relief projects including renewable energy, headed a TV station, ran a newspaper, contributed to the clearing of land mines by specially trained dogs, founded a bank, insurance company, and supplied the resources for many other projects. If any of the projects were to prove successful, the profits were to remain in Armenia for further development.
He received accolades and recognition from both the United States and Armenia institutions, including the Ellis Island Award in 2000.

G. Cafesjian completely renovated the Cascade site in downtown Yerevan, Armenia. The Cascade was a huge old crumbling Soviet structure of epic proportions. He opened the Cafesjian Center for the Arts at the Cascade in 2009. Over one million people have visited the Center annually since its opening. His goal was to bring some joy into the lives of the Armenians through exposure to art. The Museum enjoys a world-class sculpture garden with works by Botero, Flanagan, Chadwick, Plensa, to name a few. Admission to the sculpture garden is free and it is now the most prominent meeting place in Armenia.