Philanthropist Tavitian dies; support for Berkshires 'was always very generous'

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STOCKBRIDGE Assadour "Aso" O. Tavitian, a philanthropist known in the Berkshires for his generosity and commitment to several local organizations, has died, Public Radio of Armenia reported Wednesday.

The cause of death was not disclosed, but Tavitian had undergone treatment for cancer, according to Rachel Kyte, the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, where Tavitian had set up a program to train Armenian government officials.

Tavitian, considered a patriot by the Armenian Church for his contributions to Armenia, had lived in Stockbridge since the mid-1990s, according to Bob Jones, of Lee, who served as the caretaker of Tavitian's property on Prospect Hill Road for 18 years. He also owned a townhouse in New York City that housed a large art collection.

Tavitian, the co-founder of SyncSort, one of the first software development companies to emerge after IBM unbounded its software, served on the boards of the former Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge and The Clark Art Museum in Williamstown.

In 1995, he established the Tavitian Foundation, which provides scholarships to students of Armenian and Bulgarian origin and sponsors projects that focus on the development of the Republic of Armenia.

Through his foundation, he established the Tavitian Fellows Program at the Fletcher School. That program provides a six-month training program in public policy and administration for Armenian government officials, and it has over 300 alumni.

"He sponsored students throughout his in life in a variety of areas," said Kate Maguire, CEO and artistic director of the Berkshire Theatre Group, which includes the former Berkshire Theatre Festival. "He was always very generous in terms of his support. And his support was thorough. He got to know whoever he was sponsoring and mentored them through their life."

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"A very generous guy," said Jones, who also served as the facilities manager for the Berkshire Theatre Festival. "He had a great sense of humor and was the smartest guy I've ever known. He's going to be sorely missed."

"He was an extraordinary individual and extraordinary man with an extraordinary story and a life full-lived," Kyte said.

Tavitian was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1940, to parents who had survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in Turkey. After living in Beirut for two years, Tavitian immigrated to New York in 1961 as a Cold War refugee and received a scholarship that same year to Columbia University. After earning a master's degree in nuclear engineering, Tavitian in 1975 co-founded SyncSort, a company that played a major role in the development of the software industry.

Tavitian served as SyncSort's CEO from 1975 to April 2008, when the company was recapitalized by Insight Venture Partners. According to Jones, Tavitian lived in Greenwich, Conn., before moving to Stockbridge, where he resided next door to the late Berkshire benefactors John and Jane Fitzpatrick, who restored the Red Lion Inn in the late 1960s.

After the Fitzpatricks died, Tavitian bought their property on Prospect Hill Road in 2014, restored it and moved his foundation there, according to Jones.

"We are deeply saddened by the sudden demise of Aso Tavitian — great philanthropist, humanist, patriot and beloved friend of the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzian and the Armenia people," His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, told Public Radio of Armenia. "His death is a great loss for the Holy Church and the whole nation."

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at 413-281-2755 or tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com.


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