He never expected it – but Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian has one more reason to be proud of his Armenian heritage.
For his work to benefit the Armenian community, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian recently received a prestigious medal from the President of Armenia. Approximately 33,000 Armenians live in Massachusetts, with Watertown having the third largest Armenian-American community in the country, according to Gov. Deval Patrick’s Office.
“At first, I was stunned, because I didn’t expect it,” Koutoujian, a Waltham resident, told Waltham Patch. “This is only once in a lifetime.”
On Dec. 12, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan presented Koutoujian, who has Armenian roots, with the Mkhitar Gosh Medal for his work in diplomacy, political science law and politics, according to the information provided by the Armenian Embassy through the Sheriff’s office. The medal is named after Mkhitar Gosh, a 12th century Armenian scholar and writer. The President of Armenia chooses the medal’s recipients.
Koutoujian said he was surprised but honored to receive the award. Koutoujian and Sargsyan were walking through the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge when suddenly Sargsyan told the sheriff he had a gift for him. Sargsyan presented the medal and let the moment settle.
“I had no idea they were going to give me this medal,” Koutoujian said.
Koutoujian said he was honored to receive such a prestigious honor, of which he said has its roots in the Armenian constitution.
The award exhibits the work the Armenian community has done to preserve Armenian history, Koutoujian said.
Koutoujian has done a lot of work to help preserve Armenian history. In addition to attending many events marking Armenian history, Koutoujian, during his time as a state representative, pushed for the construction of the Armenian Heritage Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. The park sits across from Hanover Street near the edge of the North End neighborhood and features sculptures and a reflecting pool, according to its website.
Starting in 2000, Koutoujian started efforts to secure $6 million for the park, which is dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide and all Armenians that have immigrated to the United States.
"It’s a gift from the Armenian American community,” he said. "It’s one of the most spectacular things.”
Koutoujian’s work for Armenia is rooted in his family’s connections to the country. His grandparents, natives of Armenia, escaped the Armenian Genocide. The genocide left 2 million Armenians living in their historical homeland of Turkey, dead, according to the United Nations. The genocide occurred between and 1915 and 1918.
Koutoujian, who has visited Armenia twice, plans to keep up his pro-Armenian work. He said he wants to keep working to preserve the history of the genocide and educate more people about it.
"It’s really about helping out Armenia too," Koutoujian said.
With Armenia in “a very difficult spot” economically, Koutoujian said it crucial to keep working for Armenia causes.
"It’s important for us to continue to strengthen them economically," Koutoujian said.