BERKELEY, Calif.—After many long years, the Armenian Alphabet sculpture called “Three Apples from Heaven” has finally found a home in the Doe Library at the U.C. Berkeley campus. A dedication celebrating the event was held September 15th, 2013 in the library. The day was hosted by UCBAA and attended by many who worked long and hard to achieve the sculpture’s placement. Elaine Anderson, Evelyn Boyd and Haiganoush Pressler were three who worked tirelessly with the library and its staff, and now the sculpture is beautifully exhibited in the library.
The sculpture was donated by Richard Terzian, a 1951 graduate of U.C. Berkeley. Richard was born in New York City, attended schools there and only spoke Armenian until he was seven years old. In 1945 he was drafted into the army and after his service came west to U.C. Berkeley, where he studied physics and decided to remain there. He said, “I thought I had entered dreamland— it never snows here, and I’m not going back to New York.” After his graduation, Richard moved to Los Angeles where he received a Master’s degree in Engineering from UCLA and worked for Hughes Aircraft, RCA and TRW.
Richard’s sister Annette who had commissioned an earlier alphabet which is housed at Mt. Holyoke College had dreamed of placing an Armenian sculpture at Richard’s alma mater, Berkeley. Unfortunately she passed away before the project began. And so Richard took over his sister’s dream connecting with the sculptor, John Ventimiglia. Richard enlisted the help of the UCBAA and appointments were set up for him to talk to the various Berkeley officials who liked the idea of the sculpture being donated to the library.
John Ventimiglia is Chair of the Sculpture Department of the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine and had created two earlier alphabet sculptures. He began the Berkeley project in 2008, and it was completed in 2012. John said he studied old Armenian manuscripts and pictures to be able to draw the letters first on paper and then make wax molds, and then hot bronze to attain the finished product. It took many arduous hours to get the beautiful result we have today. If one looks closely at the sculpture, one sees pomegranates at the bottom of the piece. John feels that pomegranates are a common motif of Armenian fables. Also it was noted that John should have an “ian” added to his name to make him an honorary Armenian because of his long involvement with the Armenian alphabet.
Guests at the dedication were escorted in groups to see the lovely sculpture and then invited to listen to speakers. UCBAA president Victor Stepanian introduced Dr. Tom Leonard, University Librarian who was the first to speak, and said “we should consider ourselves a privileged group, because usually when people gather in the Morrison Room, only white wine is allowed” while the group had red. Dr. Elaine Tennant, Director of Bancroft Library said how wonderful it was to have the sculpture.
Wine and Armenian fare were enjoyed by the guests who were serenaded by the Armenian Student Women’s Choir. In closing it was noted that Richard Terzian was basking in the afterglow of the event. He now is embarking on a new venture to get alphabets placed at UCLA and USC.