ASU benefactor Gregory Melikian attends Armistice Day in France to commemorate end of World War I

As a soldier in WWII, Melikian was the one who communicated the message that the Germans had surrendered

November 29, 2018

Gregory Melikian feels strongly that communication is a key component for U.S relations overseas.

He should know, because as a young sergeant in WWII, he was chosen to communicate a message that changed the world. The Germans had surrendered. The war in Europe was over.  Greg Melikian Gregory Melikian in Reims, France. Photo Credit: John Riedy Photography/The Greatest Generations Foundation Download Full Image

Melikian, the namesake and longtime benefactor of Arizona State University's Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies was working as a telegraph radio operator in Reims, France, under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Allied Powers when he was asked to send the message to all Allied command centers.

It read: “A representative of the German High Command signed the unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Force, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command at 0141 Hours, Central European Time, 7 May 1945, under which all forces will cease active operations at 0001B Hours, 9 May."

Melikian, then age 20, was chosen because he was the youngest radio operator on duty when the Germans had signed the papers of surrender. The generals wanted him to tell the story for the rest of his life.  

And he has been doing so ever since.

At age 94, Melikian recently returned to France to mark the occasion of the ending of another war. He was invited, along with five other U.S. WWII veterans and six Vietnam veterans, to join U.S. dignitaries in France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918.

A highlight of the trip for Melikian was visiting the Ecole Professionelle, a co-educational technical school 90 miles northeast of Paris. It served as the Allied headquarters in Reims where Melikian worked during World War II. It was also the site where the Germans surrendered. The Germans had used the building as supreme headquarters during their occupation and Eisenhower made it his supreme headquarters since moving from Versailles several months prior.

Today the small school is still open, and left-hand side of the building features a small museum where the historic signing took place. Melikian was invited to sit at the table. Fifteen chairs are still arranged around it, the majority for the Allied dignitaries, and three for the Germans. Campaign maps still cover the walls, showing the state of play in Germany, Burma and the Philippines. The room today is preserved behind glass.

The building outside is marked by the flags of the United States, Great Britain, Russia and France. Written onto the wall are the words, “C’est ici que le 7 mai 1945, a ete signe l’acte qui mit fin a la deuxieme guerre mondiale en Europe.” which translates to, “It is here that on 7 May 1945, was signed the act that ended the Second World War in Europe.”

In another ceremony, Melikian and the veterans were at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial just outside of Paris, where President Donald Trump paid tribute to the U.S. and Allied soldiers killed in World War I. During his remarks, President Trump called out to the six U.S. veterans from World War II in attendance, including Melikian, thanking them personally for their service.

In addition to his service in WWII, Melikian served as honorary commander of the 56th Fighter Wing and 944th Fighter Wing of the Air Force Reserve at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, from which he is now retired.

In 2012, for his unique role as “The Man Who Ended WWII” in Europe, Melikian was inducted and bestowed as chevalier, or knight, into the French Legion of Honor.

Today, Melikian is quite proud of the center that bears his name. He boasts of the fact that hundreds of ROTC students study languages alongside civilians in the Center's Critical Language Institute, allowing them to speak to the local populations in areas of their deployment, including Pashto in the north of Afghanistan and Uzbek in the south. He deeply believes that the ability to speak a foreign language is highly beneficial for military personnel. Not only does it allow soldiers to socialize with local communities where they are deployed in peacekeeping operations, but it’s also been proven that the support of the local population is vital to ensure the success of a military campaign.

Because of the importance of World War II, the war that changed the world, ASU and the National World War II museum will launch of a new online master’s degree program, World War II studies, beginning in January 2019. The fully accredited online Master of Arts degree will provide 30 hours of coursework taught by the world's top WWII scholars from both ASU and the National World War II Museum. The deadline for applications is Dec. 1, 2018.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


Mexico’s secretary of the economy discusses nation's globalized future at Convergence Lab panel

November 29, 2018

Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy and Arizona State University alumnus Ildefonso Guajardo reflected on the future of a globalized Mexico at the latest Convergence Lab ASU event in Mexico City on Nov. 19, an event that brought together ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management alumni, as well as a number of academics and media outlets who follow ASU activities in Mexico. 

Guajardo was interviewed by TV anchorwoman Ana Paula Ordorica, and their conversation was followed by a panel that included Robert Grosse, Thunderbird School professor and director for Latin America; Amy Glover, CEO of Speyside Mexico; and John Santa Maria, the director general of Coca-Cola Femsa. Convergence Lab ASU event in Mexico City Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy and ASU alumnus Ildefonso Guajardo discusses global trends with journalist and political analyst Ana Paula Ordorica at a Nov. 19 Convergence Lab ASU event in Mexico. Photo by Speyside Group Download Full Image

The event took place ahead of a packed week for the secretary, which would include attending the G-20 meeting of heads of state in Buenos Aires, where President Donald Trump will join the leaders of Canada and Mexico in signing the updated revision to the North American Free Trade Agreement, now known as the USCMA; and attending the Dec. 1 swearing-in of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as next president of Mexico, signaling the end of Guajardo's six-year cabinet tenure.

At the ASU event, Guajardo told the Convergence Lab audience that Mexico is far more connected to the outside world than it was a generation ago, and that the process of opening up the country’s economy hadn’t merely been a question of signing free-trade agreements with willing partners, but of also building internal capacity to be more globally competitive. He said Mexico had been playing catch-up in so many areas, citing anti-trust policy and laws as an example, an area in which the United States with its Sherman Antitrust Act had a century’s head start over Mexico. Likewise, while Mexico’s economy has demonstrated that trade can create decent jobs, the country still lags behind when it comes to entrepreneurship.

The secretary of the economy also acknowledged that the exuberance around globalization of a few years back has given way to wary reassessments in many quarters of the world about the costs and benefits of great economic interdependence across borders. He said people were too quick to forget that the postwar global economic architecture was designed in part to give preferential treatment to emerging and underdeveloped nations, “but someone seems to have forgotten that foreign policy requires consensus in a democracy,” and that any consensus for the status quo would be difficult to sustain once emerging markets emerged, seemingly at the expense (at least in terms of the political narratives) of the less educated workers in developed world.  Hence the current blowback against globalization in many countries, where domestic economic “losers” are taking political control.

Guajardo remains optimistic about the long-term role of “a globalized Mexico” in the world, but cautions against considering any trade deal between Mexico and the U.S. as a cure-all panacea, noting that these treaties “aren’t the antidote to all commercial tensions, but they do provide a mechanism for resolving them.”

In the second segment of the event, the panel moderated by Ordorica explored what the future of a globalized Mexico means for its growing number of multinational corporations. Grosse and Glover cautioned against an overreliance on the American market. Living in the shadows of the world’s largest single market and being so tied to it culturally and economically, it’s hard for Mexican business to engage the rest of the world as much as it should. Grosse also said that despite its largely positive strategic position, Mexico and its companies need to invest more in research and development, an area in which they lag behind Brazil. Grosse also said that Mexican companies should do more to insert themselves in valuable global supply chains and think about doing a better job of marketing its own brands overseas. Glover concurred, and added that one thing she’d still like to see is for Mexico’s growing number of homegrown multinationals “bet on inclusivity and diversity in their workforce, not as a matter of social justice, but for their own competitiveness and growth.”

Santa Maria, whose company does business in more than a dozen countries, acknowledged that when FEMSA started doing business in South American countries, “we assumed we already knew how to sell Coca-Cola there, or operate a convenience store, that it was the same as back in Mexico,” but that such an attitude was a mistake.  “We really need to understand our consumers in each market, discover their preferences, and cater to them.  Every market is different, and even within one country you can have several different and distinct markets.”

As for learning about other markets, Guajardo, whose parents didn’t attend school past the sixth grade, also mentioned at the event that one of his big breaks in life came in college when he persuaded the person at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon who oversaw scholarships to ASU under an exchange program at the time to let him come to Tempe for graduate studies.  “I didn’t speak a word of English when I was 20, but I talked my way into the program by saying I would be studying economics, and it’s all numbers anyway.”

You can’t plan your life too far ahead these days, Guajardo said, noting that the planning periods of our careers keep getting shorter. “Life is like a game of connecting dots, with each dot serving as an inflection point that when added to all the others in a sequence, as time unfolds, create the story of who you become.”

On a far more prosaic note, Guajardo was presented at the event with a pitchfork T-shirt and something especially meaningful to him: a gift certificate to his favorite ASU hangout: The Chuckbox burger joint on University Avenue. 

“I might have some free time to stop by soon,” he said with a chuckle, considering the dots yet to be connected down the road.

Written by Andrés Martínez