Jan 27, 2020

Remembering Benjamin Amirkhanian, 1915-2016

Benjamin Amirkhanian was a multifaceted human being.

I was privileged to know him when he became a member of the board of the Fresno Free College Foundation (FFCF), a nonprofit organization committed to free speech and the enhancement of the cultural, artistic and intellectual life of the community. Ben served as member and treasurer of the foundation board from 1979-1985.

During this period, he was also the chair of the Saroyan Festival and was very active in presenting the life and work of William Saroyan, a renowned literary author, to the people of the Central Valley of California, where Fresno is located.

Some of these festival events were also broadcast on KFCF-FM, a radio station owned and operated by the FFCF. Ben and his wife, Eleanor, participated in all of these events. Ben and the FFCF were instrumental in placing a Saroyan monument at the courthouse park in Downtown Fresno to honor William Saroyan.

By a fortunate coincidence, when the FFCF established its radio station, 80 percent of its programming was that of KPFA in Berkeley, California, and the music director at that station was Ben’s son, Charles.

After KFCF started broadcasting in 1975, artist Carol Law, Ben’s daughter-in-law, donated one of her art pieces to the foundation, and it is on the front and back cover of the FFCF 1975-76 annual report. Ben was also very pleased that Charles’ music programs can be heard in the Central Valley.

Ben was a good example of an individual contributing to his community, to his nation and to the human race. His regular attention to keeping a healthy mind in a healthy body – according to ancient Greeks who saw this as necessary to be able to  serve the public – as well as his service in World War II to defeat Nazi fascism and his devotion to promoting the arts and music.

He proved himself a naturalist, cultivating his backyard at his beautiful home as well as being an expert in grafting his various fruit trees. Ben and Eleanor, without knowing it, also identified two blossoms on Carl Jung’s metaphorical “stem of the eternal spirit tree” and named them Jane and Charles; a fine contribution to the progress of the human race.

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