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American-Iranian Makes $17 Million Donation To California State University Arts Center


Mr. and Mrs. Younes Nazarian Younes Nazarian attend the UCLA Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center For Israel Studies 5th Annual Gala at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on May 5, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California

The “Valley Performing Arts Center” has been renamed the “Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts” in recognition of a $17 million gift from the Nazarian family.

The world class art center is a 1,700-seat venue located on the campus of California State University Northridge, CSUN.

“Through this historic and transformational gift, Younes and Soraya Nazarian are investing in the elevating power of the arts,” CSUN President Dr. Dianne Harrison said in a statement. “The Nazarian family has made a profound and lasting impact on CSUN and the entire region.”

Meanwhile, Harrison reiterated, “Younes and Soraya have ensured that we can continue to deliver the finest music, dance and theater events.”

According to the local media, the money will be used to support programming and operations at the center, which will open its seventh season in September.

The venue’s new name will be shortened to “the Soraya” in honor of Soraya Nazarian, the Nazarian family matriarch and a renowned sculptor. Soraya Nazarian recently completed and donated to CSUN a sculpture titled “Unbound.”

“My wife’s name, Soraya, means jewel, and this center is a jewel as well,” Younes Nazarian said in a statement. “It is very fitting that her name will grace this building that is itself beautiful and contains such artistic beauty onstage.”

The gift is the Nazarian family’s second major donation to CSUN since 2014, when David Nazarian, the son of Younes and Soraya Nazarian and a CSUN alumnus, donated $10 million to kick off a $25 million fundraising drive for the institution. The David Nazarian College of Business and Economics is named in his honor, San Fernando Valley Business Journal reported.

The $17-million gift by the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation launched by Younes and Soraya Nazarian will spur an endowment to boost the visibility and reputation of the center’s performing arts, VPAC officials say.

“The gift is an incredible opportunity for us to continue to raise our profile as an arts organization in Los Angeles,” said Thor Steingraber, executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center, which features international and local artists from around the globe.

“Last year we had Sting, on the one hand, to touring orchestras from Russia, on the other. We’re able to maintain such programs with gifts like this.”

Younes Nazarian Younes was born in a Jewish family in Iran. His father died when he was three years old, and soon he was forced to work at Tehran’s Bazaar, repairing and replacing bulbs for peanuts. However, being smart and insightful, Younes was attracted to construction business when Iran’s economy was booming. As a construction contractor, Younes amassed a fortune but lost it during the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran.

Younes, as a member of Iran’s Jewish minority, was alarmed by some anti-minority incidents and decided to immigrate to California, U.S.A. and leave Iran, for good.

In 1980, borrowing against monies owed to their confiscated Iranian business by European companies, Younes and his brother were able to purchase precision tool manufacturer, Standard Tool & Die (Stadco), Bloomberg reported, on December 01, 2011. And that was the beginning of Nazarians financial empire.

Younes, now 86, says, “After coming to U.S. I was forced to construct everything from the scratch. I already had the experience for going back to square one and start all over again.”

According to Thor Steingraber, executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center, “Nazarians gift will provide long-term stability to performing arts programming by creating an endowment that will help pay for international touring orchestras that cost more than other billings”.

The Nazarians live in Beverly Hills and are no strangers to California State University, Northridge.

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