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Younes & Soraya Nazarian

In July 2017, CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison and Executive Director Thor Steingraber welcomed the Nazarian family into the venue that now bears their name, in honor of their transformative gift. Sharon Nazarian’s words, on behalf of the family, reflected the values CSUN and the performing arts in Los Angeles.

In the 1940s, many years before he fled the Iranian Revolution and became a rich man in America, Younes Nazarian was a boy from the Jewish ghetto selling and replacing light bulbs in the alleys and bazaars of Tehran.

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Dr. Dianne F. Harrison, president of California State University, Northridge, today announced the renaming of CSUN’s Valley Performing Arts Center to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.

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The Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation was founded by Younes and Soraya Nazarian in 2000 to steward a “moral inheritance” passed down to them by their parents. Today, the foundation’s leadership is comprised of a second generation, Younes and Soraya’s children.

The Nazarian Family is continuing its legacy through its Junior Board of Advisors, a body made up of Younes and Soraya’s grandchildren. This third generation of philanthropists is responsible for each of its own portfolio of discretionary giving and is responsible for recommending funding to causes and organizations.


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I am joined by President Erika D. Beck in sharing the news that in 2022 we have lost a revered and beloved member of our community — Younes Nazarian. The namesakes of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, Mr. and Mrs. Nazarian, along with their entire family, invested generously in CSUN in 2017.  At the time, their gift to the performing arts center was the largest ever received by CSUN.

President Beck noted the tremendous impact he had on the university. Her words ring with warmth and admiration: “His legacy, represented by The Soraya, affirms our inherent connectedness, attuning our hearts and minds to what really matters – our humanity.”

Younes Nazarian and his family rebuilt their lives in Los Angeles after fleeing the revolution in Iran, events that shaped his steadfastness in the face of adversity as well as his commitment to support others like himself who had confronted hardship. From this, Younes Nazarian came to guide a family of philanthropists who placed their values of education and the arts at the forefront of serving communities who might otherwise lack access to either.

Above all, the dedication and closeness of his family stands to define Younes Nazarian. He was always surrounded by children, grand-children, and his wife of 61 years. When being in the presence of their tight-knit clan, it was clear that he was the inextinguishable ember.

When first getting to know Mr. Nazarian, I could count on him to ask difficult questions. More than offering a challenge, this was his way of extending an invitation — he delighted in testing ideas and interests and finding common ground.  A glint in his eye offered assurances, and the conversation inevitably ended with a broad smile and a firm handshake. What an honor it is to come to work every day in the performing arts center that bears the name of Younes Nazarian, to welcome thousands of people to performances every month, and to carry forward his vision and legacy.

– Thor Steingraber, 2022

Soraya Sarah Nazarian

Soraya Sarah Nazarian is an Iranian-born artist and lifelong patron and supporter of the arts. In the 1980’s, following her family’s immigration to the United States, Soraya began sculpting at American Jewish University and in 2000 she traveled to Pietrasanta, Italy, to study her craft. To this day, Soraya remains one of the few women selected to have personally selected stone from the Pietrasanta quarries – the same marble used by Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo.


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Dancer, created in 2018, is an abstract celebration of movement and performance. The curvature of the stone suggests a graceful, circular motion, inspired by the sacred dance of Sufi mystics and the beauty of ballerinas in mid-pirouette.

Dancer is constructed from Persian trabertine, a stone Soraya often uses to evoke her connection to her iranian homeland. In Italy the stone is known as “rosa soraya” – making this choice all the more apt for its location. The base, or “stage” is constructed from a block of onyx, whose rosey veins compliment the elegant figure that stands upon it.

Installed in 2021, Dancer resides in The Soraya’s courtyard.

“Though frozen in solid stone, the viewer can almost feel the anticipation of the quiet, liminal movement in which the performer takes the stage, just before the dance begins.” – Soraya Sarah Nazarian, 2018

From left to right: Untitled (2016), Untitled (2019), Woman within the violin (1996), String Instruments (2006) | Soraya Sarah Nazarian

String Series by Soraya Sarah Nazarian


Located in The Soraya’s Loge Lobby sits this sculpture series overlooking Dancer in the courtyard below. In String Series (1996-2019), Soraya explores form and musicality – a reflection of her own family’s musicianship and their long and passionate interest in music performance.

“CSUN’s commitment to making the arts accessible, its inclusive approach to artistic programming, the university’s deep diversity and its vital place in the community all contributed to our family’s decision to make this investment.” – Soraya Sarah Nazarian

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