John Amar Shishmanian (born 1882 in Lexington, Kentucky; died 1945)[1][2] was a conductor of the Virginia Glee Club during the 1905-1906 season. During World War I he played various roles within the French Army, ultimately commanding the French Armenian Legion in battles in Turkey and becoming part of the ill-fated effort to establish an independent Armenian state.

Shishmanian’s accomplishments as an orator are attested in John S. Patton’s Jefferson, Cabell and the University of Virginia, which includes a list of Jefferson Society medal winners.[3] Shishmanian, who was registered with the University from Lexington, Kentucky, was a graduate student in law, having finished his BA at the University of Kentucky. The October 1903 Alumni Bulletin called him “an Armenian resident in this country ... entered as a student in the course recently established leading to a consular service certificate.”[4] His leadership of the Club is attested by a 1905 Atlanta Constitution article about the Club’s concerts there: “The clubs are now undergoing bi-weekly rehearsals under the leadership of Mr. Shishmania [sic], the winner of the southern intercollegiate oratorical medal last winter.”[5]

He was the president of the Jefferson Society in 1905, and was also awarded the medal for oratory in that year.[6] He is attested as a speaker at the honorary initiation of Virginia governor Claude August Swanson into the Delta Chi fraternity in 1905 or 1906.[7] He graduated in 1906, then registered at Stanford University in the fall of 1910. A few years later he joined the volunteer ambulance corps of the French Army, then enlisted in the French Army, rising to the rank of Second Lieutenant. He fought at the Battle of Verdun then joined with other volunteers in the French Armenian Legion, where he received the Croix de Guerre. He commanded the Armenian Legion in several key battles including at Arara, and after World War I formed the Armenian National Union for Cilicia with other Armenian expatriate nationals. Unfortunately the efforts to free Armenia ran afoul of the Allies' plan for the partition of Turkey.[8] Shishmanian was arrested by the French in 1920, freed through diplomatic efforts, and lived the rest of his life in Fresno, California.[1]

External links[edit source]

This article has more context at Jarrett House North, the blog of the historian of the Virginia Glee Club Alumni and Friends Association.

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References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Inventory of the John Amar Shishmanian papers, 1879-1946". Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  2. "Guide to the John D. Crummey Peace Collection in the Hoover Institution". 1991. p. 63. Retrieved 2103-09-15. 
  3. Patton, John S. (1906). Jefferson, Cabell and the University of Virginia. p. 364. 
  4. The Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia. I. 1903. p. 232. 
  5. "Virginia Glee Club Coming". Atlanta Constitution: p. A7. 1905-10-15. "The clubs are now undergoing bi-weekly rehearsals under the leadership of Mr. Shishmania [sic], the winner of the southern intercollegiate oratorical medal last winter." 
  6. Catalogue of the University of Virginia. 1905. p. 223. 
  7. Delta Chi Quarterly. IV. 1906. p. 82. 
  8. "Armenian National Union for Cilicia". The Armenian Legion and Its Heroism in the Middle East During World War I, Armenian Library and Museum of America. Retrieved 2013-09-15. 
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