California Superintendent Tom Torlakson to be honored with Man of the Year Award at ANCA-WR Annual Gala Banquet


Los Angeles, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) announced that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson will be honored with the 2016 ANCA-WR Man of the Year Award for his strong leadership and ongoing commitment to forcefully defending and advancing issues critical to Armenians worldwide and his stanch support in ensuring that Armenian Genocide education is properly taught to future generations in the California public school system. Torlakson will personally accept the award at the Gala Banquet to be held on Sunday, October 16 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

“As a longtime supporter of human rights, Superintendent Torlakson has been a true champion for educating future generations who will be well informed about the Armenian Genocide and other crimes against humanity,” said ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “We appreciate his steadfast support in raising greater awareness among educators regarding the Genocide and Near East Relief, and for his leadership in promoting its teaching in California public schools.”

“I am deeply honored to receive this recognition,” Torlakson said. “I have always appreciated the civic participation and engagement by the Armenian community in California, from the support of important legislation during my time at the State Capitol to the recent contributions by Armenians in the development of the important, 21st century History/Social Science Frameworks. Let’s keep working together to help all of our students succeed on their way to careers and college.”

Torlakson has been a longtime supporter of the Armenian community as State Superintendent and during his 14 years of service in the state Legislature. For the last two years, he worked hand-in-hand with the ANCA-WR, the ANCA-WR Education Committee and the Genocide Education Project (“GenEd”) to ensure incorporation of added language about the Armenian Genocide in the History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools, which was unanimously passed on July 14 by the California Board of Education and is currently working with publishers to incorporate the same in textbooks that will hit classrooms across the Golden State and beyond.

As State Superintendent, Torlakson has urged all school district superintendents in California to put the teaching of the Armenian Genocide into practice within the schools in their respective jurisdictions. Additionally, he has encouraged education leaders throughout the nation to incorporate the Armenian Genocide into the curriculum of other states.

As a State Assembly member and State Senator representing Contra Costa County, Torlakson also always stood on the side of truth and justice and ensured proper recognition and of the Armenian Genocide voted as year after year, for resolutions recognizing the atrocities of 1915 and calling on US Government to do the same.

Tom Torlakson, an ANCA-WR endorsed candidate, was re-elected to a second four-year term as California’s 27th State Superintendent of Public Instruction on November 4, 2014. As chief of California’s public school system and leader of the California Department of Education, Superintendent Torlakson applies his experience as a science teacher, high school coach, and state policymaker to fight for our students and improve our state’s public education system.

During Torlakson’s first term, he set out on a mission to provide a world-class education for all students from early childhood to adulthood. He directed the change to rigorous new California state standards in English, mathematics, and science. He advocated increasing investments in education, helping to pass Proposition 30 in 2012 and leading the effort to give local school districts more flexibility to make spending decisions. Under his leadership, the state’s high school graduation rate rose to an all-time high of 80 percent, with a graduation rate hitting nearly 95 percent for those students in career-preparation programs.

Torlakson’s journey has led him from the classrooms of Contra Costa County’s Mount Diablo Unified School District (where he remains a teacher-on-leave), to the Antioch City Council, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and the California State Assembly and State Senate.

In 1998 Torlakson authored legislation leading to the development of the largest system of after-school programs in the nation. In 2006, he authored the bill that led to a 300 percent expansion in these programs, and as a result, they are now available to students at 4,000 schools around the state. Torlakson authored the Quality Education Improvement Act (SB 1133) in 2006, which dedicates nearly $3 billion to our lowest-performing schools. He also played a key role negotiating and authoring the $9 billion Proposition 1A bond measure in 1998 which has led to public votes supporting over $36 billion to build new schools and improve existing school buildings.

Born in San Francisco, Torlakson served as a fireman in the United States Merchant Marine, earning the Vietnam Service Medal. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Life Secondary Teaching Credential, and a Master of Arts in Education from the University of California, Berkeley. Tom lives in Pittsburg with his wife, Mae Cendaña Torlakson, a member of the Ambrose Recreation and Park District Board of Directors and a current ANCA-WR endorsed candidate for the California 14th State Assembly District.

The 2016 ANCA WR Annual Gala Banquet will be held on Sunday, October 16, 2016 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The main event will begin at 4:30p.m. with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction. A three-course dinner will follow at 6:00 p.m. with a powerful program and presentation of the awards.

Several weeks ago, the organization also announced that it will honor Varoujan Koundkajian posthumously with the 2016 ANCA-WR Legacy Award.

Past honorees at our Annual Gala Banquet who personally appeared to accept their awards have included United States Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Ed Royce, California Governor Jerry Brown, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, California Majority Leader Walter Karabian, California Assemblymembers Katcho Achadjian, Paul Krekorian and Anthony Portantino, Los Angeles Mayors Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigosa, Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh, Archbishop Parkev Martirosyan, rock band System of a Down, and legendary late coach Jerry Tarkanian, among other distinguished honorees.

Individuals interested in attending the Annual Gala Banquet are encouraged to purchase tickets online at or call 818.500.1918. To obtain individual or corporate sponsorship information visit or call (818) 500-1919. For up to the minute updates on the event follow ANCA Western Region on social media Twitter & IG: ANCA_WR

The ANCA WR Gala Banquet represents the single largest annual gathering of Armenian American public policy leaders throughout the western United States, and is attended by over 1,400 prominent Members of Congress, state legislators and officials, community leaders, and many of the organization’s strongest activists and generous donors from California, Nevada, Arizona, and throughout the western United States.

The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

Photo: ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan gifts Superintedent Torlakson with the original ANCA pin