Honorees: Raffy Hovanessian, MD


A medical doctor, a benefactor and an art patron, Dr. Raffy Hovanessian was born in Jerusalem and spent his formative years in Aleppo, Syria, then a hub of Armenian culture. In 1956, he graduated from the sophomore class of Aleppo College with high distinction. Moving to Lebanon, he continued his education at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and he received his Bachelor of Science degree with distinction. In 1958, he was admitted to the AUB Medical School from where he graduated in 1962. He also completed his three years of Internal Medicine residency at AUB (1962 -1965). While in Beirut in 1960, he was admitted to the Alpha Omega Honor Medical Society and served as its local chairman until 1965.

He married Shoghag Varjabedian in 1965 and that same year they moved to the United States. After completing an extra year of residency at Hackensack Medical Center in NJ, he was admitted to Johns Hopkins Medical Center for Fellowship in Gastroenterology (1966-68). After completing his fellowship at Hopkins, he served for two years as a Major in the United States Army at Fort Knox, KY.

Dr. Hovanessian was in private practice for 35 years (1970-2005) in Northwest Indiana, mostly practicing at St. Mary’s Mercy and Methodist Hospitals. During those years he served in various capacities in different committees. He was elected President of the medical staff at Mercy Hospital for a two- year term and served as Chairman of the Division of Medicine for four years (1976-80). In the same capacity as Chairman of Medicine, he served the Methodist Hospital from 1980 to 1988. He was one of the founders of Crown Point Medical Hospital, in Crown Point, Indiana.

Along with his busy medical practice, he has dedicated tremendous amount of time and resources to community and cultural activities.

As a generous benefactor, he was instrumental in the construction of Sts. Joachim and Anne Armenian Church of Palos Heights, Illinois. The grateful parish dedicated the Church Hall in the Hovanessian name in honor of Dr. Hovanessian.

Dr. Hovanessian and his wife Shoghag have spearheaded the fundraising campaign in Chicago and established a long time dream – the Chicago AGBU Center – purchased with all local funds. Here they also established the Sissag H. Varjabedian Armenian Saturday School through the generous donation by the Hovanessian couple. When St. Nercess Armenian Seminary was doomed to close its doors, depriving the American-Armenian community from the benefit of educating the future young clergy, Dr. Hovanessian rolled his sleeves and raised one million dollars for the seminary’s Endowment Fund.

The devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia triggered an outpouring of generosity from the Chicago Armenian community, where Dr. Raffy Hovanessian once again was a leading figure to raise funds for the Armenian nation. He and his wife donated $100,000 for the earthquake stricken country. He also has taken more than 27 trips to Armenia to treat the victims of the earthquake and help with establishing hospitals. For over 30 years, Dr. Hovanessian served as the personal physician of his Holiness Karekin II of Antelias later Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians.

His generosity matches his community services. He was one of the founders of United Armenian Cultural Association.