In Memoriam: Life Trustee Samuel V. Goekjian ’52
February 6, 2023
Samuel V. Goekjian ’52 built his first “home” on American soil at Syracuse University and he never left his alma mater behind, even though he built an extraordinary career in international law and finance that spanned the globe. After graduating with a degree in history from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the College of Arts and Sciences, Goekjian remained an engaged alumnus, a trusted advisor to leadership, and an active board trustee and philanthropist—all in service to his alma mater. He created a legacy that will touch Orange lives for generations to come. Goekjian passed away on Dec. 9, 2022, at the age of 95.
“I have always considered myself a Maxwell man,” Goekjian once said. It’s where he “ learned not only about the rights of citizenship, but also of the obligations that accompany that citizenship.” He took what he learned and made a real difference in the world and in the lives of hundreds of Syracuse students.
Goekjian’s father, Vahram, was an Armenian journalist who escaped the bloodshed in Turkey at the end of World War I. He married another Armenian refugee in Greece, and emigrated to Ethiopia to build a business and raise their two sons, eventually sending them to an American boarding school on the island of Cyprus. Later, Goekjian returned to Ethiopia to work at the Ministry of Education, where one of his responsibilities was to place students in British and American universities. That’s when he was presented with an opportunity that would change his life—a four-year scholarship to Syracuse University. He arrived in 1948, as one of the few international students on campus.
At the University, Goekjian demonstrated his diverse skills, interests and leadership: he was a three-sport letter winner in soccer, track and tennis (recognized by the Varsity Club of Syracuse University Athletics 40 years later as a 1996 LetterWinner of Distinction); he belonged to the Phi Kappa Alpha Honor Society, the Orange Key and was a Phi Beta Kappa; he was elected president of his junior class, the debate society and the men’s student government in his senior year. He graduated magna cum laude in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in history.
After graduation, Goekjian joined the U.S. Army and served as a mortar gunner in the Korean War. Following two years of combat service, he attended Harvard Law School and earned a law degree in 1957.
Fluent in seven languages and having lived in four continents, he navigated the world of international law and business with ease, spending the next five decades working for law firms, businesses or consulting firms with international offices. At Surrey & Morse, he rose to managing partner, overseeing its finance committee, international arbitration department and offices in Paris and Beirut. For nearly ten years, he was chair and CEO of Consolidated Westway Group Inc., an international trading and agro-industrial group. He was past chair and CEO of Intracon Associates LLC, an international business consulting firm in Washington, D.C., and managing partner of Kile Park Reed & Houtteman, which specializes in intellectual property, internet technology and international trade.
He also served as a senior consultant to various agencies at the United Nations and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of papers on international law and finance, Goekjian taught at the George Washington University Law School, the Georgetown University Law Center and Georgetown’s International Law Institute. He also taught a course in international economic development at Maxwell as an adjunct professor of international relations from 1998-2003.
Goekjian served his alma mater in diverse ways. He was first elected to the Board of Trustees in 1997 and was a voting trustee until 2010, serving on the Academic Affairs and the Enrollment and the Student Experience committees. He had the distinction of being one of the longest-serving members of the advisory board of his beloved Maxwell School, which recognized his service with the Horizon Award in 2005. He received the University’s highest alumni honor, the George Arents Award, in 2009 for his excellence in international business and law.
Ensuring a legacy of his love for the University and commitment to international affairs, he established the Samuel V. Goekjian Endowment in Global Affairs. His philanthropy supported hundreds of summer travel research grants for Maxwell students doing international field research, providing students with the opportunity to gather information and data that would position them to better compete for future research funding. Each summer, the fund provides more than a dozen grants, awarded through Maxwell’s Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs. Recipients have used the money to help with airfare, translators and basic expenses.
In celebration of his 90th birthday, Goekjian committed another $250,000 to the fund that had already exceeded $1 million. In a 2018 Maxwell School news article about the celebration, one of the award recipients said, “this is the type of financial and intellectual generosity that positively alters the course of people’s lives.”
At the time of his death, he lived in Washington, D.C. He is survived by his children Kenneth, Christopher, Peter and Lisa, and six grandchildren.
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