Posted: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 – 11:36 PM
On Tuesday, Dr. Dianne F. Harrison, president of California State University, Northridge, announced the renaming of CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.
The California State University Board of Trustees approved the naming in recognition of a $17 million gift from the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of Younes and Soraya Sarah Nazarian and their family. The gift will support the programming and operations of the award-winning performing arts center which opened six years ago.
The gift is one of the largest in the history of the California State University and the system’s largest single gift to support the arts.
“Through this historic and transformational gift, Younes and Soraya Nazarian are investing in the elevating power of the arts and in the artists who enlighten and inspire us all,” Harrison said. “The Nazarians’ generosity is unlike any CSUN has ever experienced. The Nazarian family has made a profound and lasting impact on CSUN and the entire region. Younes and Soraya have ensured that we can continue to deliver the finest music, dance and theater events, engaging communities throughout Los Angeles and Southern California.”
The center will officially be named the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, with “The Soraya” its preferred shortened name. The new name will be used informally throughout the 2017-18 season and formally unveiled at the start of the 2018-19 season.
“CSUN’s commitment to making the arts accessible, its inclusive approach to artistic programming, the university’s deep diversity and its vital place in the community all contributed to our family’s decision to make this investment,” Soraya Sarah Nazarian said.
Businessman, investor and philanthropist Younes Nazarian and his wife Soraya, an internationally recognized sculptor, said they made the gift — one of the largest in L.A. arts history — because the mission of the center aligned seamlessly with the family’s own values. “At CSUN, we found the perfect opportunity to impact the entire region by supporting two of our family’s most treasured values — education and the arts,” Younes Nazarian said. “My wife’s name, Soraya, means jewel, and this center is a jewel as well. It is fitting that her name will grace this building that is itself beautiful and contains such artistic beauty on its stage.”
The Nazarian family’s support for CSUN started in 2014 when their son—businessman, philanthropist and CSUN alumnus David— made a gift that was recognized by the naming of CSUN’s business college as the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics in 2014.
In 2016, Younes and Soraya donated 50 laptops and were also title sponsors for the 50th anniversary celebration of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, an event that capped a two-year, $25 million fundraising drive for the college.
Drawing on the entrepreneurial acumen he had in Iran — where he helped establish one of the largest import/export companies of construction machinery and equipment in the region — Younes Nazarian, soon after his arrival in the U.S., became co-owner of Stadco, a tool and dye manufacturer of specialty parts in the aerospace industry. He was an early investor and served on the board of directors of San Diego-based Qualcomm, Inc., a leader in wireless telecommunications research and development.
While her husband built businesses, Soraya Sarah Nazarian pursued art, establishing her own studio in L.A. Her work, carved directly in stone, carries themes of motherhood, family, spirituality and Iranian culture. It is distinguished by two major periods: a time of discovery and experimentation in the 1980s and 1990s, and a period of artistic self-confidence marked by the creation of large-scale pieces beginning in 2000.
In 2000, the couple founded the Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, led by their daughter, Dr. Sharon Nazarian, whose charitable giving focuses on supporting educational causes through a multi-pronged approach in academia, public policy and the arts.