During the Rotary Club of San Marino’s latest ‘Craft Talks’ program, newer Rotarians Jean-Pierre Mainguy and Dan Maljanian shared a little more about themselves with their fellow Rotarians.
Both men began their speeches on Sept. 29 with a recounting of their ancestry. San Marino Rotary Membership Chair Molly Woodford first introduced Mainguy, who was born in Paris, France.
“He spent his childhood in Senegal, Africa where his father was working as a research veterinarian,” she said. “Then his family moved back to Paris in 1960 where he attended high school and university there.”
Mainguy said he came from a humble family of farmers. He told a family story about his descendants in the French Fleet during the Battle of the Chesapeake.
“As the people of Brittany are very often sailors, it’s not surprising to see members of the Mainguy family in the French Fleet at that time,” Mainguy said.
He spoke of how Brittany-born relatives died in action during the Battle of the Chesapeake in September, 1782 during the American Revolution. He said that battle was particularly important because it allowed the French to bring reinforcements to the United States Army and led to the British Surrender of Yorktown.
Mainguy then talked about his great-great grandfather who was a French soldier in 1813 was wounded in The Battle of Lützen in Germany. Local farmers helped him recover and he worked on their farm for a while. Afterwards, he walked 1,300 kilometers, or approximately 807 miles, back to Brittany on foot.
“Those ancestors went far from home,” Mainguy said. “The sailors went west and the soldier went east. It turns out that I did he same.”
Mainguy earned his master’s degree in mathematics at University Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris followed by his Ph.D in biomathematics from University of Rennes. He began working at Hewlett-Packard in Germany as a research and development manager and settled in Southern Germany. Mainguy worked for HP in France, Switzerland and then finally Palo Alto, Calif. in 1998.
He went on to work at biopharmaceutical company AMGEN in Thousand Oaks from which he retired from in 2013.
When he retired, he said he thought, “The time has come for me to help others.”
Mainguy continued, “It was something that has always inspired me, but I had little time to do it.” He said he likes to focus on helping those in developing countries.
“What is the best way to do that?” Mainguy asked, rhetorically. “Well, join the Rotary. We can get together and get things done.”
He talked about a recent trip with San Marino Rotary to Tijuana, Mexico.
“I think it’s not enough to do good by sending stuff over there,” Mainguy said. “It’s very important to meet with the people, listen to them, hear about their hopes and projects, and be able to help.”
Volunteerism is very important to Mainguy and his wife, Barbara Hoskins. In addition to his work with Rotary, he also volunteers in Cambodia. Hoskins is helping build a secondary school in Kenya.
Mainguy concluded his talk with a quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mainguy is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Redlands School of Business.
Woodford then introduced Maljanian, who grew up in Arcadia, and founded and was executive director of Technical Assistance for the Republic of Armenia in Alexandria, Va. during the early years of Armenia’s independence.
Maljanian said Nachidshenan – which is where he said Armenian tradition says Noah’s first descent from the Mountains of Ararat occurred – forms the center point of the ancient history of his family.
“For generation upon generation since before the time of Christ, as far as I know, all of my family lived in this region of historic Armenia,
never straying far for a few thousand years,” he said.
Maljanian said his great grandparents on his mother’s side had come to California from Turkey in the 1890s. He said he doesn’t know the exact reason they left Turkey, but suspects it might have had to do with persecution as 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were killed in the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
“One of the first questions Armenians ask each other is ‘What village did your ancestors come from?,’ which apparently tells one a great deal about the descendent,” Maljanian said.
He said upon his grandmother’s death in 2004, he discovered an elaborate family tree that she never shared with the family. Maljanian said the family tree went back to the early 1800s, describing the family’s exodus from Persia.
“This document certainly reminds me that all four of my grandparents’ families had experienced mysterious and possibly traumatic journeys which ultimately led them to the promised land of America,” he said.
Maljanian said some of his father’s family had come from Kharpert, Turkey during the 1890s, but his grandfather had lived in Kharpert until closer to the Armenian Genocide. His father’s mother was born in the country of Georgia and grew up in Alexandropol, now called Gyumri, in Armenia, and lived through the genocide and communist revolution.
“I suspect that there were significant cultural differences in my father’s household with a Russian Armenian mother and a Turkish Armenian father as well as my Fresno-born third generation mother and my second generation father whose parents spoke heavily-accented English as well as Russian and Turkish.”
Maljanian graduated from Arcadia High School in 1981 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a JD/MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent a year at Harvard Law School through an exchange program with UC Berkeley. Maljanian said during his first summer in grad school he accepted an internship in Washington, D.C. to work with U.S. State Department and lived with 40 Armenian-American interns.
“This was the first time that I ever had Armenian friends and I really began to embrace my ‘Armenianness,’” he said, adding that he was leaving later that day for a 30-year reunion with this same group.
Maljanian worked as an attorney for a law firm in Washington, D.C. and interviewed for a job with then Deputy Solicitor General John Roberts, current chief justice of the Supreme Court, at the Solicitor General’s Office. After four years, Maljanian chose to start a nonprofit organization in Armenia providing assistance to small businesses emerging from Communism.
“I received a $100,000 grant to put on a judicial conference training all the judges in Armenia on rule of law principals,” Maljanian said. “I naively invited all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices to attend the conference and incredibly, Justice Antonin Scalia accepted the invitation and traveled to Armenia with me for a week.”
Maljanian and his wife, Patrice, then opened up a bakery in Virginia before returning to Southern California. Maljanian continued working for nonprofits, including the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, American University of Armenia, Convalescent Aid Society and Huntington Medical Research Institutes.
Maljanian is currently director of development at the Pasadena Community Foundation.
“I migrated at age 22 from my Southern California childhood home to the Bay Area and then to the East Coast to Cambridge, Massachusetts at age 25 to Washington, D.C. for 14 years to Armenia and finally I have returned to my family legacy in Southern California,” he said. “I’ve reinvented myself several times now. As an entrepreneur, I’ve migrated from student to law practice to nonprofit startup to small business startup and then back to nonprofit work.”
In her concluding remarks, San Marino Rotary President Gilda Moshir said, “There was a theme of ancestry. I hope all of you guys get the challenge to go back and look at your family tree.”