Great Forces to Be Reckoned with! The Legacy of Paul & Rosemarie Kalemkiarian



The Kalemkiarian family has generously established two scholarships at the American University of Armenia (AUA) in memory of their patriarch, Paul Kalemkiarian (1928 - 2022), and matriarch, Rosemarie Kalemkiarian (1927 - 2020). The scholarships aim to provide students exhibiting academic excellence with financial assistance for the opportunity to study at the University. Through this mighty effort, the Kalemkiarians’ legacy will continue to inspire future generations of students to pursue their academic goals and make a positive impact in their homeland. 

Paul Hagop Kalemkiarian was born on October 20, 1928 in Cairo, Egypt, to Hagop and Siranush Kalemkiarian, both of whom were survivors of the Armenian Genocide who had escaped Turkey. Starting a new life in Egypt, the family grew with the addition of Paul’s sister Susan and his brother David. Paul grew up learning to speak Armenian, Turkish, English, French, and Arabic, and was also active in the British Boy Scouts. He attended English Mission College, where he excelled academically as well as on the tennis team. Showing great interest in science, he decided to further his studies in pharmacy, but getting into medical school at the time required a great deal of connections. 

The scales tipped in his favor when his mother Siranush, who ran the British canteen at the Cairo train station, befriended one of the volunteers who coincidentally happened to be the wife of the dean of Pharmacy at King Farouk University. Paul was granted a personal interview with the dean, and though the school term had already begun, he was given a place on the grounds that he would be able to keep up with the studies. Not only did he keep up, but he quickly rose to the top ranks of the class, falling short of being granted the spot of first in class because of his Christian Armenian heritage. Despite his academic success, his father Hagop knew that due to the political situation in Egypt, Paul would always be a victim of bias, so he urged his son to leave for the United States. 


Rosemarie and Paul Kalemkiarian on their wedding day, February 1952

In 1949, with the help of his relatives, Paul arrived in New York City with a budding new life and career ahead of him. Making his way to Los Angeles, he continued his studies at the University of Southern California (USC) where he completed a master’s in pharmacy. Through the program, he utilized his background in pharmacognosy to conduct original research on the production of atropine from the datura plant, one of the only known antidotes for nerve gas. 

At USC, he started the first student pharmacy as a training site for pharmacy students. He started to enjoy the process of starting his first business enterprise, and with the added experience of working at pharmacies in the area, he taught the first class at the University on how to properly price and stock a pharmacy. This led him to found his first business, The Prescription Shops, which he grew to five locations and a medical supplies rental business. 

In Los Angeles, Paul soon met the love of his life, Rosemarie Danelian, at an Armenian church event. They married in a union that would last 65 years and produce three children: Brent, Sharon, and Paul. 


Engagement photo of Rosemarie and Paul Kalemkiarian, 1951

Rosemarie Danelian Kalemkiarian was born on April 14, 1927 in Evanston, Illinois, to Jack and Siranoush Danelian, who were also Armenian Genocide survivors. While still very young, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Rosemarie and her two younger brothers, Richard and Lawrence, were raised.

Rosemarie’s passion for learning was evident from a young age. However, growing up in that time meant that opportunities for women were limited, and despite her talents, she faced numerous challenges on her path to success. She attended public schools in Los Angeles and graduated from Hollywood High School in 1945. In high school, she was active in selling war bonds and rallying students to support the war effort. She was also a skilled piano player and was elected the Queen of Job’s Daughters, a great honor that made her parents proud. 

Gaining admission to the University of California, Los Angeles, Rosemarie studied Spanish and psychology with dreams of becoming a diplomat but was told by the career office that as a woman, the only jobs available to her were to be secretary, nurse, or teacher. She had to fight against societal norms and expectations that viewed women as homemakers, not professionals. Despite these challenges, she remained determined to chase her dreams and make a name for herself in a world that didn’t make it easy for women like her.


Rosemarie Kalemkiarian’s UCLA graduation photo, 1949

Rosemarie graduated with teaching credentials and taught fourth grade in the school system. An innovative teacher, she inspired her students to live up to their potential and urged them to always read and ask questions. 

When she met her husband, Paul Kalemkiarian, together they embodied the true sense of the word: partners. They settled in Palos Verdes, raising their children and building multiple businesses that would support their life of love, hard work, and prosperity. 

When an opportunity arose for Paul to buy a pharmacy, the deal also included a liquor store. Paul’s hobby and interest in wines grew, and he turned a simple liquor store into the top-notch Palos Verdes Wines and Spirits. This soon turned into the start of the original Wine of the Month Club (WOM) which he founded in 1972 and is now a national multibillion dollar industry. With Paul involved in the pharmacy and WOM businesses, Rosemarie lent her talents to writing the recipe column for the WOM newsletter, hosting winemakers, and helping sell memberships at state fairs all over the state. 

Rosemarie was a natural business woman in her own right. An active member of the PTA, she also served on the library board in Inglewood and became the district council president for one of the largest councils in the state. She was the first woman elected to the Palos Verdes Estates City Council in 1977. 

Her love of auctions and collecting antiques led her to two businesses she started: The Auctioneer’s Gavel and Hallmark Silver Ltd. And from her love and knowledge of cooking was born RK Cakes, a mail order bundt cake business. 

Paul and Rosemarie enjoyed raising their children and were delighted as their family grew with the arrival of their grandchildren. As they entered their later years, they began to seek a slower pace of life, enjoying more leisurely pursuits and spending more time with their growing family. They made a move out of Los Angeles to San Diego, first to Julian, which was a beloved site for entertaining their grandchildren, and then to Escondido, where they lived in a traditional California adobe home and tended to their avocado grove and fruit trees. 

Rosemaria and Paul Kalemkiarian, 2012

In these golden years, they both started to document their lives and impart their wisdom in books. Paul worked on their family histories and published his father’s concordance of the New Testament of the Bible, his father’s biography, and that of his grandfather Boghos Kalemkiarian. Rosemarie began work on a cookbook, a major undertaking with cherished recipes, including traditional Armenian favorites, and completed it in time for her 80th birthday, distributing it to her family members and loved ones.

Paul and Rosemarie worked hard together and also relished in the simple pleasures of life, cherishing every moment with their loved ones and savoring the joy that came with each passing day. “Even at the end of her life, she was determined to figure out why she felt tired and what could be done to turn around her health,” their daughter Sharon reflects on her mother, adding that “She was so smart, wise, and touched so many lives, very directly, and her advice was always cherished.” 

The children learned much from their parents and were inspired by their work ethic, as they learned to take the reins on their multiple business endeavors. “Dad taught us the value of self-discipline, whether in taking care of your health, your business, or your home,” Sharon fondly remembers. “He was always gracious – not expecting anything from others but asking what he could do for them. He was curious about everything and always tried to find the best in people,” she adds.

The Kalemkiarian family, 2002 

Both Paul and Rosemarie valued their education and saw it as a vehicle that drove them to their success. In their memory, the Paul Kalemkiarian Memorial Scholarship at AUA will benefit students studying business and economics at the University, and the Rosemarie Danelian Kalemkiarian Memorial Scholarship will benefit female students studying diplomacy, public affairs, or political science. 

The Kalemkiarians taught their children to never forget their ancestors and remember the struggles and strength of their grandparents that allowed them to stay alive and plant more seeds for the future. Now, they are planting seeds at AUA that will allow future generations to carve their own paths to success and pave the way for a brighter future for Armenia. 

AUA is grateful for their support. To learn more about establishing scholarships, visit:

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values. The AUA Office of Development is located in the U.S. and stewards the University’s philanthropic efforts exclusively for educational purposes.