Michael Mahdesian Receives 2023 Vahan Cardashian Award
Culver City, California, November 29, 2023 – Michael Mahdesian, chairman of Servicon, a leading national aerospace, hospital environmental services (EVS), and commercial cleaning services provider, was honored with the 2023 Vahan Cardashian Award. The prestigious award was presented to him for his activism and unwavering dedication to promoting human rights for the Armenian community and beyond by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)—Western Region (ANCAWR).
Mahdesian accepted the honor at the 2023 ANCA—WR Awards Gala on November 12 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles. A portion of the proceeds were donated to support Artsakh Genocide survivors.
About the Vahan Cardashian Award
The award is named for Vahan Cardashian, who lobbied the United States for support in creating an independent Armenian state in the aftermath of World War I and the Armenian Genocide. In founding the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), he created the first U.S. Armenian lobbying group, which served as the predecessor for ANCA.
“It is with great pride that the ANCA—WR salutes Michael Mahdesian for his lifetime of brave, impassioned service to the advancement of the Armenian cause and humanitarianism at home and abroad,” says ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “His knowledge and experience in public policy and human rights has inspired generations of activists. His fierce commitment to giving a voice to those in need is an example for all Armenians as we stand in solidarity with people worldwide who seek democracy and a better life.”
Mahdesian said he was humbled and honored to receive the award and took time to reflect on the lessons he had learned from his father: “My parents were first-generation Americans who came of age during the Great Depression. They knew from our family’s experience during the genocide and later integrating into American society the necessity of civic engagement. They encouraged my participation in politics, humanitarianism, and philanthropy. If you think of those three words, they are all about people. We can never forget that we are all human beings and need each other’s support. This recognition encourages me that I have, in some small ways, helped those in need and tried to make this world a better place.”
A Lifetime of Caring
After completing his education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Mahdesian served as policy director and press secretary for political activist Tom Hayden’s successful campaign running for the California State Assembly. Mahdesian contributed to the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED) by winning a contract to train Vista volunteers in community organizations. The grassroots organization, led by Hayden and wife Jane Fonda, helped achieve progressive goals in California, such as protecting renters, unions, and women’s rights throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
During this era, Mahdesian also became a prominent leader in LA’s Armenian American community, where he helped to establish the ANCA as an influential political advocacy group. For decades since, he has served as a supporter and advisor to ANCA and ANCA—WR, applying his energy, perspective, and years of advocacy to fulfill his commitment to ensuring the Armenian community has a voice within American politics at the local, state, and national levels.
In the early 80s, Mahdesian applied his CED and ANCA experience to become a top aide, strategist, and fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C. He helped the Democratic Party retain its congressional majority despite the popularity of U.S. President Ronald Reagan. This was also when Mahdesian met his wife, Natalie.
The couple returned to LA to start a family, and Mahdesian began a janitorial supply company that later became the supply division of Servicon, the company his father, Richard, started.
In 1989, after the devastating earthquake in Armenia, Mahdesian spearheaded U.S. disaster relief efforts to help secure vital aid for the suffering people of Armenia, including organizing an airlift. His extensive experience in the field of humanitarian aid led U.S. President Bill Clinton to appoint Mahdesian to serve in the State Department as bureau deputy of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he was tasked with overseeing international humanitarian aid and post-conflict transitions to peace and democracy.
While in the State Department, he became a high-ranking operational diplomat, assisting with many global crises: He lent assistance following the Rwandan Genocide, developed programs on the ground in coordination with the Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland, led the first U.S. team to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the overthrow of Mobutu, and administered humanitarian aid to those in need during conflicts in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
In 2000, Mahdesian returned to Servicon as board chairman, where he pioneered “green cleaning” and other sustainability efforts. He also worked with lawmakers in Sacramento, CA, to root out sexual harassment in the industry and crack down on the underground market that depresses wages and benefits for workers. In 2001, LA Mayor Jimmy Hahn appointed Mahdesian to the city’s planning commission, where he served four years working to improve the city’s infrastructure.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mahdesian founded ServiconCares, a philanthropic foundation that partners with and donates to groups in Southern California to improve the communities where Servicon employees work and live. He has remained active in progressive politics, devoting his life to ensuring the people of California, the United States, and the world have better opportunities for prosperity and peace.
In July 2023, Mahdesian received one of the highest honors from the State of California and the California Assembly, an official resolution commending him for his career of service to the country, California, humanity, and the Armenian community.
For more information about Michael Mahdesian’s extraordinary humanitarian efforts in Los Angeles, the United States, and around the world, visit ancawr.org.
ANCA-WR is a grassroots public affairs organization headquartered in Los Angeles devoted to advancing issues of concern to the Armenian-American community. For nearly a century, the ANCA-WR has served to educate, motivate, and activate the Armenian-American community in the Western United States on a wide range of issues. For more information, visit ancawr.org.
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