A $1 million gift received in memory of Central Valley native Robert Michael Shapazian will support the Children's Hospital Central California's child life, oncology and neurosurgery programs. Mr. Shapazian was founding director of Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills and passed away from lung cancer in June 2010 at age 67.
Todd Suntrapak, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Children’s Hospital Central California, said, “This transformational gift in memory of Robert Michael Shapazian will bring hope and healing to the young patients we serve and will make available vitally needed funding so Children’s Hospital can provide more services to children.”
Suntrapak said the gift will enable the Hospital to begin an important pilot program in its imaging and emergency departments where a child life specialist will work closely with children undergoing difficult and time-consuming scans. It’s hoped that play therapy and other techniques will calm children, reducing the need for sedation medication.
Mr. Shapazian’s own battle with cancer will be honored as part of the gift that will support the oncology program at Children’s Hospital to ensure Valley kids continue to have access to the highest quality cancer care in Central California. Suntrapak noted that the pediatric neurosurgery program will also benefit.
In appreciation of this generous gift, the Hospital’s child life center and program will be named after Mr. Shapazian.
Children’s causes and working with at-risk youth using art therapy and literature were a special interest for Mr. Shapazian. His love of the arts began in Fresno, when at age 13 he began to import antique objects from Thailand. This appreciation of Asian and contemporary art continued throughout his lifetime.
Mr. Shapazian earned a bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley and a master’s and doctorate at Harvard University. After graduating, he returned to Fresno to work with his father, Ara Shapazian in agriculture until his father retired. He then moved to Los Angeles to pursue his interest in the field of art but always felt an emotional connection to the Central Valley where he was raised.