The Sylvia and Stephen Melikian Family, in honor of Clifford Melikian Endowed Scholarship

Clifford Melikian (1920-2015)

Supporting veterans by ensuring their access to higher education has had a transformational effect on the heroes who have defended their homelands. Clifford Melikian experienced this firsthand. His education was made possible through the U.S. G.I. Bill following his service in World War II in the U.S. Army. Now, his son Stephen and wife Sylvia are honoring Clifford’s memory in a meaningful way through The Sylvia and Stephen Melikian Family, in honor of Clifford Melikian Endowed Scholarship. The fund is established within the framework of AUA’s Honoring Those Who Served: Investing In Our Veterans’ Education campaign and will offer scholarships in Clifford’s memory to generations of returning young servicemen and servicewomen, leading them through rich educational pathways and experiences that will secure a purposeful future for them individually and for Armenia. 

Stephen and Sylvia were both raised in the Los Angeles area. Their respective parents instilled in them a strong sense of Armenian identity and nurtured a solid foundation of history and culture. Stephen graduated from Dartmouth College, then received his J.D. from the University of Southern California’s (USC) Gould School of Law. Sylvia graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and continued on to obtain an M.B.A. from the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University. Although both had very active professional careers after graduate school, they actively maintained their cultural identity as Armenians and have remained active in various Armenian philanthropic and professional organizations. Sylvia and Stephen now live in San Francisco and have three children. 

Stephen’s father Clifford was born in 1920 in Fresno, California, the second of three children born to Armenian immigrants from Western Armenia. Clifford was formally inducted into the U.S. Army on October 31, 1942. He was eventually assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division as a combat infantryman and deployed to the European theater in Marseille, France in late 1944. Not long after his deployment, Clifford was promoted to sergeant in charge of a squad and, subsequently, a platoon. Clifford’s deployment took him through France, Austria, and Germany, where he participated in the capture and occupation of Munich and the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. Clifford saw extensive combat and was wounded in action, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. He was discharged from the army in January 1946, having spent more than three years in uniform, of which thirteen months were overseas. 

Clifford returned to school following the conclusion of World War II to obtain a university  education that was made possible through the G.I. Bill. He earned a degree in economics from  USC and often spoke about how invaluable his education was in pursuing his professional goals. Stephen recalls how much his father appreciated the assistance he received through the G.I. Bill. Clifford lived in Walnut Creek, California from 1975 until his passing in early 2015 and was very active in the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

“We named our scholarship in Clifford’s honor in order to recognize the contributions he  made to both the Armenian community in California as well as his country of citizenship, the United States,” said Sylvia and Stephen. “We have supported AUA since its inception and visit the University every time we travel to Armenia. The students are well engaged and joyful, and they study in a building whose design inspires excellence. We believe that supporting AUA is instrumental to the future of Armenia, and it has been a privilege to observe its success and impact. Our soldiers deserve to benefit from the opportunities AUA provides.”

Sylvia & Stephen Melikian

“Clifford’s generation, which has been dubbed the ‘Greatest Generation,’ benefited considerably from the G.I. Bill passed in the wake of World War II,” Sylvia and Stephen continue. “The G.I. Bill allowed returning servicemen to complete their education, purchase homes, and generally have a smoother re-entry into civilian life than would have been possible without it. Providing financial assistance to returning veterans at AUA is our attempt to offer them a type of benefit similar to what Clifford received so that they, likewise, may become Armenia’s ‘Greatest Generation.’”