I was shocked and saddened to learn Saturday about the most untimely death of my old college friend Aram Peter Kezirian, Jr. According to a mutual friend, he suddenly collapsed last Monday while playing basketball in Southern California. Peter was just 48.
Peter was a behind-the-scenes player in Republican politics. We met soon before departing our native Los Angeles for our alma mater, Georgetown University. Peter was active in College Republicans and was a gregarious presence among the campus Right, although he tended more towards the moderate side of things.
We both interned for then-senator Pete Wilson (R., Calif.) in his L.A. office in the summer of 1984. I recall Peter as a very energetic and well-organized colleague. We worked together to mollify a group of constituents who wanted Wilson to do more, more, more to protect wilderness habitats in the Golden State’s forests. As I vaguely recall, we did our best to listen carefully to them and prevent that pot from boiling over. This freed Wilson to remain focused on things like reducing taxes and reversing the Soviet empire. Peter also worked with Wilson on Capitol Hill as a research assistant for national security.
“Peter was probably my very first Washington intern,” Senator Wilson remembers. Speaking from his Los Angeles home, he adds: “He was one of my very brightest and most diligent staffers. At a very tender age, he displayed really extraordinary instincts and judgment . . . I think he understood not just the values of conservatism, but why it worked.”
After graduating from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, Peter earned his law degree at the University of Southern California. He joined Wilson’s administration in Sacramento when he became governor. Wilson appointed Peter general counsel at the Department of Corporations, which oversees some 60 percent of the California economy.
Peter became a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations (of which I am a life member). He studied U.S. Mexican affairs as well as NATO’s performance in Bosnia and Kosovo. In 2003, Peter and a team led by former governor Christine Todd Whitman (R., N.J.) observed national elections in Cambodia. He also fortified America’s trans-Atlantic ties as a German Marshall Fund Fellow.
“I recommended him for the German Marshall Fund,” Senator Wilson says. “It’s one of the few times I received a letter afterward thanking me for making such an outstanding recommendation.”
For the last 14 years, Peter worked with the Cooperative of American Physicians-Mutual Protection Trust, which guides doctors through the maze of medical malpractice. As senior vice president for corporate strategy and strategic development, Peter endeavored to advance medical safety and preserve the doctor-patient relationship.
Peter and I became reacquainted at our 25th college reunion in June 2011. He was particularly engaging and hilarious as we spoke at great length on a variety of topics at the cocktail parties and big-lawn barbecues that define such gatherings.
Peter worked on Mitt Romney’s campaign, primarily in fundraising. We ran into each other the night of the New Hampshire primary. After Romney’s easy and early victory last January 10, Peter walked into the Center of New Hampshire Hotel in Manchester, looking for something to do. We spotted each other in the main ballroom, where Newt Gingrich was about to address his troops. We stood at a small table, amusing ourselves by commenting on the festivities, much like those two grizzled curmudgeons who wisecrack from the Muppets’ balcony.
Afterward, Peter and I retired to the bar and regaled each other for at least three hours with jokes, true stories, political analysis, and observations about our relatives, old friends, and life in our late 40s. We enjoyed a very pleasant conversation and warmly shared several drinks and about a thousand laughs. Those are my latest memories of Peter Kezirian. I cannot believe those will be the last.
Requiescat in pace.
A. Peter Kezirian, Jr. is survived by his wife, Michelle, his mother, and his four younger brothers. Services are scheduled for Monday, November 26, at noon at the United Armenian Congregational Church, 3480 Cahuenga Boulevard West (near Universal Studios Boulevard), Los Angeles, Calif.
Aram Peter Kezirian, Jr.
June 1, 1964 – November 19, 2012