Ardem Patapoutian won the Nobel Prize in Medicine last week, thus becoming the first Armenian laureate to receive the highest award in different fields of humanities and science, from Literature to Economics.  

It is therefore unsurprising that newspapers, newsfeeds and social networks both in Armenia and the Diaspora were flooded with this extraordinary news, of historical importance in the truest sense of the word. We would not be exaggerating if we said that following the ordeal we experienced last year, when Armenians all over the world are still grieving, this was one of the most heartening and joyful news of the current year, while the earth is still soft in the cemetery of Yerrablur and the faces and memory of our young martyrs are engraved in our hearts.   

There is an issue, however, that has not been paid much attention to, especially in circles in which the Armenian language is not commonly used: Patapoutian’s father is a noted Armenian-language writer and his mother is an Armenian teacher; he has received his primary and secondary education in Armenian schools of Lebanon, and growing up he was an active member of the local community, with the same friends who today are sharing childhood photos with their Nobel laureate friend on Facebook.  

How can we not rejoice and be moved when looking at the photo of the Dzaghig classroom of the AGBU Demirdjian School in Beirut, with little Ardem smiling before the camera together with his classmates and their teacher, Ms. Siroun Sahagian.  

The main merit, however, belongs of course to the winner. “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan,” according to a well-known adage. Indeed, this does not mean the entire Armenian people won the Nobel prize along with Patapoutian.  

It is indisputable that he did not win this prize necessarily because he attended Armenian schools, but it is equally true that being a student in Armenian schools, especially in the terrible days of the Lebanese civil war, Patapoutian today has inscribed his name on the pages of science history.  

There is a message on humility here for all Armenian parents and especially those community leaders who regard Armenian teachers and schools with contempt to the point of shutting them down, and for all those who only see or seek educational excellence in non-Armenian classrooms.  

Perhaps it is no mere coincidence that Noubar Afeyan, also educated in an Armenian school of Lebanon, has earned similar fame lately thanks to the Covid-19 vaccine created by his company. It is the same Lebanese-Armenian community that has given so much to the Diaspora and the world and that today is faced with an unprecedented crisis, even worse than the terrible war years.  

These are famous names. How many worthy Armenian school graduates are there in the world, who make worthy and productive contributions in different fields? How many Afeyans, Patapoutians, and less known “ian”s or “yan”s has society been deprived of because of those who disregard or close Armenian schools, moved by ill-conceived notions and standards of “educational level,” according to which the usefulness of the Armenian language is debatable and probably respond to superficial and immodest social conceptions, in which the image of French or English schools plays a bigger part than concerns of a pedagogical nature. 

Finally, along with the enthusiasm this news has created there is also another equally indisputable fact. For the first time in the 120-year history of the Nobel Prize, one of the 609 laureates is Armenian. Hence, Armenians still have a long road ahead, and that road passes through our schools too.