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Prominent Alumnus, Donor, and Engineer Krikor Ermonian Passes Away

Tea lights burning in memoriam

On May 7, College of Engineering alumnus Krikor Ermonian ’52 passed away after leading a life rich in engineering accomplishments and generous philanthropy to the causes he believed in, including his alma mater. He was a career civil engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, retiring after nearly 30 years of designing critical flood control structures throughout New England. See obituary

In December of 1992, Mr. Ermonian established the Simon and Satenig Ermonian Scholarship Fund in memory of his parents to award scholarships to engineering and history students at UMass Amherst. One motivation for his scholarship gift was to ensure that students were able to finish their degrees. As a man with a lifelong passion for both engineering and history, he chose to divide this gracious endowment among students with similar fervor in the UMass College of Engineering and Department of History. Over the years, hundreds of students have benefitted from Ermonian’s gift.

Born in 1921 in Worcester, Ermonian was a WW II Veteran, serving in both theaters. A beneficiary of the G.I. Bill, Ermonian was at Fort Devens in Shirley, Massachusetts, before enrolling at UMass Amherst and subsequently earning his degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 1952.

After graduation, Mr. Ermonian joined the Army Corps of Engineers. Following a brief assignment in the Construction Division, where he worked on the construction of Westover Air Base, he enrolled in the engineering trainee unit and subsequently assumed a position in the Engineering Division in 1954, where he spent the remainder of his Army Corps career. He dedicated his career to designing flood control structures throughout New England. He chose this design career path instead of the higher visibility and glamour of management positions. His reward was the satisfaction of seeing these projects provide flood protection to the populace of New England.

Ermonian’s supervisor in the Engineering Division, Richard D. Reardon ('58 CE), once complimented Mr. Ermonian for his skills in designing various flood control projects throughout New England over the course of his 28 years in the Engineering Division: “The widespread devastation caused by the hurricanes of August 1955 prompted a period of design and construction of numerous dams and local flood protection projects. A total of 26 dams were completed following the 1955 flooding, all of which were designed and constructed during the career span of Mr. Ermonian. He participated as a key designer on many of these projects, including the large Hopkinton and Everett dams in New Hampshire and the Black Rock, East Branch, Hall Meadow, Hancock Brook, and Hop Brook dams in Connecticut.”

In addition to numerous dams, Mr. Ermonian also designed features for major local protection projects, such as Ansonia Derby and Danbury in Connecticut. He also prepared some of the contract plans for coastal structures to protect the unique Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island.

Ermonian never married, but continued to live on the second floor of a two-family home in Arlington, which had been originally purchased by his parents. He believed in the importance of education, which explains his generous gifts for student scholarships at UMass Amherst and Arlington High School. Always continuing to learn, he was a history buff and completed over 100 courses at Harvard University Division of Continuing Education. He also spent a lot of time at the library and was a benefactor of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund.

As many people commented, Ermonian was a very humble man. He did not drive but took the MBTA or walked. He left a bequest to UMass Amherst and 22 other charities.  (June 2017)

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The following "Tribute to an unlikely friend" was submitted by Paula Sakey ‘88, Former Director of Development UMass Amherst College of Engineering and now, Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Wentworth Institute of Technology:

He was an octogenarian when I met him.  Never married, living alone in the home he was raised in Arlington, Massachusetts never learned how to drive and was someone who was 100% selfless and generous as the day is long.  His parents had passed and his dear brother as well.  I was blessed that he opened himself to me and our friendship began.  As the Director of Development for the UMass Amherst College of Engineering for 8 years, there were three people before me that were let into the wonderful world of Mr. Ermonian, the late great alumnus and dear friend, Dr. Michael Foley, my predecessor Jeffrey Wolfman and a former UMass Foundation executive who would meet Krikor to accept his stock certificates as gifts to UMass Amherst College of Engineering. 

I would visit him in Arlington, take him on errands, for a donut and coffee at the Dunkin Donuts around the corner from his weathered home, to the library and town hall to pay bills. On one occasion, in the town hall, a woman recognized him and thanked him for the scholarship that he made possible for her son.  He was a man of few words but great action.  Over the course of his life he donated over $1,000,000 to UMass Amherst to support students through a scholarship in memory of his parents and probably same for Arlington High School students in memory of his brother. 

He worked in the army corp of engineers, had a keen mathematical mind and invested his money well.  He took hundreds of continuing education courses at Harvard as an adult learner and read several papers every day at the library.  He wanted for nothing for himself and only gave to others.  After I left UMass Amherst three years ago to take a position in the Boston area, I actually moved my family to Arlington.  I thought about Krikor, my dear friend daily, but as a busy life would have it, I didn’t visit – I called a few times but never reached him.  I regret this and one day got the call, as I was sitting in the dentist’s office, that he had passed.  I quickly went to the funeral at the Armenian church in Watertown – the same church that he signed me up to receive the monthly raffle for – and mourned his loss with a small group of others.  As I was leaving I reintroduced myself to his cousin and executor of his estate.  He and his wife hugged me and said how Krikor kept track of me and would update them on my progress in my career, etc.  We shared stories and admitted that he was a unique and genuine sole – one that made our lives richer for knowing him – Rest in peace dear friend.