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The Baronian Collection
Febebruary 13 – March 23, 2003

John Baronian, A50, has collected elephants for 50 years, amassing 3,000 sculptures and art pieces from his world travels. Now the gift of this collection to Tufts will be celebrated with a special exhibition in the Koppelman Gallery.

The collection, including pieces from Hong Kong, Thailand, Africa and Europe, will be showcased along with a tribute to the Tufts mascot that started it all: Jumbo, of Barnum & Bailey fame. After the five-week show, which opens February 13 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m., the elephants will be displayed in the Remis Sculpture Court of Aidekman Arts Center.

Baronian said he looks forward to the exhibition, and he is pleased that the collection will now be housed at Tufts. “Jumbo symbolizes all that is Tufts, and that’s really what this collection is about, pride and spirit,” he said. “Now, as a gift to the university, it can be a part of Tufts history, as it should be.”

Courtesy of the Tufts Digital Collections and Archives

Baronian, known as “Mr. Tufts,” grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts. Subsequently the family moved to Medford, where his father ran a small variety store. At Tufts, Baronian became an outstanding athlete; he was the only lineman who received four varsity letters in football.

After graduation, he started collecting elephants on a whim. As a nationally ranked top salesman with American Mutual Insurance Co., he regularly attended corporate annual meetings held abroad. International travel introduced him to the enormous popularity of elephants around the world, from markets in Hong Kong to antique shows in London. “I covered a lot of territory looking for elephants,” he said, “and I always found them, wherever I went.”

Baronian’s passion for elephants is only one way he shows a lifelong affinity for his alma mater. A stalwart supporter of Tufts athletics, he cofounded the Tufts Jumbo Club, providing financial support to the Tufts athletic program. Two awards, named in his honor, are presented annually to athletes in football. He also established a memorial scholarship in his parents’ name and in 1983, an athletic field house at the Ellis Oval was named in his honor.

Tufts recognized his leadership in 1964 when he received the Tufts Distinguished Alumni Award. He was president of the Tufts University Alumni Association from 1970 to 1972, and he served as an alumni trustee for many years. As a strong supporter of Armenian-related organizations, he has also been honored; most recently he was presented with the Man of the Year Award by the Catholicos of the See of Cilicia, based in Beirut. He also counts the Contribution to Amateur Football Award, presented to him in 1982 by the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, among his most prized honors.