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Former AGBU Manoogian School Principal Hosep Torossian
Former AGBU Manoogian School Principal Hosep Torossian

Best in Class

How Hosep Torossian turned a small Armenian school into a statewide model 


For Hosep Torossian, Ed.D. the best measures of success for a diasporan Armenian school are how many alumni enroll their own children and how well it maintains a top-notch curriculum in every generation. The retired principal of the AGBU Alex & Marie Manoogian School (AMMS) in Southfield, Michigan knows a thing or two about both.

Today his grandchildren are students at this standout example of educational excellence, which US News & World Report ranked in the top 20 percent of public high schools in the country in 2023-24. The 2022 graduating class of 33 students received 145 college acceptance letters (including Ivy League) and were offered $12.6 million in scholarships. Ten students were accepted at University of Michigan Ann Arbor, widely considered the best public university in the country.

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Aerial view of the center.

Aerial view of the center.
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Aerial view of the center.

Torossian’s quarter century of leadership is marked by an astounding expansionary era, including the multimillion dollar construction of a 35,000 sq. ft. high school building funded by AGBU Emeritus Trustee Richard Manoogian, and, more recently, a 4,000 sq. ft. wing named the Manoogian STEAM Center. Such ambitious projects reflect on his familial roots in both AGBU and education.

“We have five generations of engagement with the organization since the 1930s, when my grandfather helped found a local school and the AGBU Jarablus Chapter in Syria,” mentions Torossian. “Our house in Beirut was part of my trifecta: just a stone’s throw from the AGBU Yervant Demirdjian School, which I attended, and the AGBU Manoogian Center, where I was entrenched in the AGBU AYA Boy Scouts. My father taught at the school and served as AGBU AYA secretary, but, sensing what was to come, advised me to study in Toronto after I graduated from the AGBU Hovagimian Manoogian School,” he adds. 

Torossian graduated with a Chemical Engineering BS from the University of Toronto in 1978, and, over the next 22 years, received multiple job offers and lucrative promotions, involving many relocations that eventually landed him in Greater Detroit. The first order of business was enrolling his children at AMMS. Shortly thereafter, he joined the board.

The most critical skill we teach is how to learn. The ladder of success no longer has simple steps to the summit; it’s more akin to rock climbing. Students must be able to adapt to change and innovation. That takes self-discipline and grit.

“One day in 1999, a math teacher took leave; I told the board that I could fill in, and in no time, I was hooked. I was offered a vice principal position six months later, and can’t stress enough what a wise decision it was, even with a pay cut,” he notes.

Grasping how education and business leadership differ tremendously, he says, “The key difference hinges on nurturing students versus nurturing financial success. Education is truly a people business.”

While serving as a vice principal, he enrolled at Central Michigan University to earn a Master of Educational Leadership. Seeing his potential, the university urged him to pursue a doctorate and then offered him an adjunct professorship, which lasted for 13 years.

When he earned his education doctorate in 2005, he became the AMMS principal—the only one in Michigan with an engineering degree and a doctorate in education. It was a marriage of rational and analytical skills plus instructional leadership, or, in plain speak, people skills.

He takes a collaborative leadership approach with the faculty. “Leadership exists at every level. I was entrusted to assemble the best team possible, and worked hard to earn their trust and allowed them to thrive in the profession they love. Teaching is one of the most difficult careers one can choose,” he notes. 

As for the student body, Torossian is emphatic. “Show them all the respect they deserve. Our teachers care deeply and know that before children are ready to learn, trust must be established. Children want engagement, to feel their opinion counts, and to be given hands-on experiences. That’s another reason we focused on STEM learning. We established a mentorship with General Motors, and in 2017, our electric car was the only student-built vehicle on display at the Detroit Auto Show. Today, nearly half of our automotive and robotics, as well as graphic design team is female.”

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Dr. Torossian at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Manoogian STEAM Center.

Dr. Torossian at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Manoogian STEAM Center.
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Dr. Torossian at the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Manoogian STEAM Center.

The Covid pandemic was another moment when Torossian led the community. He recalls, “Other schools either shut down completely or took months to begin online learning. We went fully remote within three days and adopted a hybrid approach that September with a 30-point safety protocol system in place. It was one of the biggest challenges the school ever faced, but our faculty and board made it as painless as possible.”

With technology growing exponentially, Torossian says the learning curve is steep. “The most critical skill we teach is how to learn. The ladder of success no longer has simple steps to the summit; it’s more akin to rock climbing. Students must be able to adapt to change and innovation. That takes self-discipline and grit.”

Yet Torossian is quick to credit the school’s namesake, the great philanthropist, business magnate and former AGBU president Alex Manoogian. “We cannot thank him enough for his foresight to request tuition-free charter school status for AMMS. He wanted to open the doors to non-Armenians and relieve the board of the financial burden holding AMMS back from its true potential.” Today, it is a mosaic of the local community with 450 students and 45 faculty. 

“Parents gladly drive great lengths to be part of our ever-growing AMMS family, making us the envy of so many,” states Torossian, who was recently elected to the College of Fellows of the Engineering Society of Detroit—setting the bar for the next generation of educators that much higher. 

Originally published in the June 2024 ​issue of AGBU Insider. end character

About the AGBU Insider

AGBU Insider profiles extraordinary AGBU program alumni across a diverse set of industries and passions. With exclusive interviews and photography, each issue reveals the Armenian impact on society, community, and industry.