Zarmine Boghosian and speaker Hovannes Khosdeghian

Eastern Diocese Honors Zarmine Boghosian for 50 Years as an Educator and Writer

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By Florence Avakian

It was a special evening of paying tribute to a dedicated individual, Zarmine Boghosian, the former principal and teacher at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School for decades, and a lifelong champion of teaching and transmitting the language, culture, and history of the Armenian people throughout her life.

More than 150 family, friends, students, and admirers gathered in Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium of the St. Vartan Cathedral Complex and Diocesan Center, where the warmth that flowed throughout the evening made it feel like a family affair. The event was a continuation of the revival of events at the Diocesan Center following a two-year absence due to the pandemic.

On April 27, Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan presided at the reception honoring Mrs. Boghosian on the occasion of her newly published book, From Azez to America. The book compiles the events of her life through notes, speeches, addresses, articles and commentaries, and details the difficulties of surviving as an Armenian.

The book was published in Armenia, with all proceeds devoted to the “Armenian Teachers Fund,” a project Boghosian founded and champions.

Prominent among the attendees were Diocesan Legate in Washington D.C., Archbishop Vicken Aykazian; Diocesan Vicar Fr. Simeon Odabashian; Diocesan Director of Ministries Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan; St. Vartan Cathedral Vicar Fr. Davit Karamyan; Holy Martyrs Armenian Church pastor Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan; musicologist and concert pianist Sahan Arzruni, and several officials of the Tekeyan Cultural Association including Hagop Vartivarian, and the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey’s Vartan Abdo.

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Following an opening prayer by Archbishop Aykazian, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center director Dr. Jesse Arlen welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and introduced the two main speakers, Fr. Untzag Nalbandian and Hovannes Khosdeghian.

Two Powerful Perspectives

Nalbandian, pastor of Holy Ascension Church in Trumbull, CT, and teacher of Western Armenian and Armenian Literature at St. Nersess Seminary for six years, spoke eloquently in both Armenian and English. He paid tribute to the honoree’s dedication as an educator and principal of the Holy Martyrs Day School, her devotion to the Armenian Church, and her role as a writer to Armenian-American newspapers and the Armenian Radio Hour of NJ.

In a revealing episode in Azez, he related that Zarmine wrote that on Dyarnuntarach, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord to the Temple, she had to make sure she could take the light to their homes “without extinguishing it.” Fr. Nalbantian then said: “She has not only brought that light, but she has radiated it wherever she went, including into the minds and hearts of her students,” many of whom were present.

Keynote speaker Hovhannes Khosdeghian

The book, Nalbandian continued, spans the writer’s life in Syria and America, her childhood and education in the Syrian Armenian community and church, her Jerusalem odyssey with her brother, the late Fr. Vertanes Kalyajian, the Armenian language teachers’ training in Armenia, her poetic inspirations on important cultural, historical and church anniversaries, and the many individuals who encouraged her to write, including her husband, Missak, her lifelong pillar and supporter for 55 years.

In 2014, Boghosian was a recipient of the “Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Medal” by Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians. Nalbandian warmly concluded with the inspiring words of the great poet Vahan Tekeyan who wrote, “In the final accounting, what did I get out of life? Amazingly, only what I gave to others.”

Hovhannes Khosdeghian, principal of the St. Vartan Cathedral Armenian School, trained by the eminent Mekhitarist Fathers of Venice, and former assistant pastor at St. Ann’s Armenian Catholic Cathedral, expounded a passionate address in scholarly Armenian.

Starting with the descriptive words of the great St. Gregory of Narek, he called Boghosian’s memoir “a feasting table of delicacies,” and said it reflected “the strength and resolve that animated Zarmine’s dedication to her calling as an educator.”

He stated with tearful emotion that the book demonstrated “the love of the Armenian language, the foundation our identity built through the contributions of countless individuals speaking, singing, praying and mourning.” He also paid powerful tribute to “the superhuman struggle of saving from total oblivion and utter demise every letter of our alphabet created by the genius of St. Mesrob Mashdots, every bit of our cultural treasures torn into pieces and falling off another kind of feasting table by so-called civilized nations during World War I.”

Khosdeghian emphasized the importance of devoting and strengthening “a mature Armenian identity, nurtured day after day in the sacred protection and the warmth of the Armenian school, the carrier of our ancient culture to the next generation.”

He expressed the hope that “we must preserve our marvelous identity rescued from total annihilation and rebuilt through the immense courage of our grandparents and parents, so that it does not fall victim to cutting us off from our language and heritage.”

“I wish we will not become orphans in search of an identity,” he stated with emphasis, to extended applause.

An artistic program was presented by longtime Armenian actor (and Zarmine’s husband) Missak Boghosian who sang a capella the well-known “Anusgispin” in a deeply heartfelt tribute to his beloved wife. Janet Marcarian, a longtime teacher at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School, played with great feeling two piano selections, Sicilienne by Bach, and the soul-searing Elegy by Babadjanian.

In Her Own Words

Honoree Boghosian, on her 50th anniversary as an educator, speaking from the heart without notes, paid tribute to Nubar Kupelian, distinguished educator and longtime stalwart at the Diocesan Center, for his help in her decision to become a teacher in the United States, and to all the teachers who worked with her — most of whom were present at the reception. “You were our foundation,” she stated, flashing her well known smile.

She emphasized “how important our language and the Armenian schools are in order to defend and fortify our church.”

Turning to the Primate, she stressed the necessity of preparing Armenian School teachers. “A program should be set up at the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary for the purpose of teaching Armenian. This is my passionate goal. On this 50th anniversary of my teaching, I created the ‘Armenian Teachers’ Fund.’ The proceeds from the purchase of my book in Armenia will be dedicated for this purpose.”

Reciting a poem from the legendary Daniel Varoujan, she quietly and slowly voiced with heartfelt passion: “Our language is the eternity of our people.” She emphasized each word, and received a standing ovation.

During her moving remarks, my personal thoughts turned to the supreme dedication of Armenian school teachers. In my life I remembered how my mother, who taught Armenian for 50 years as a volunteer and principal, used to prepare the meals each Friday for my sister and me as children, so she could spend her Saturdays performing her Armenian teaching obligation, a duty she looked forward to and loved deeply.

The Primate, before sharing the closing prayer, stated, “Beyond all you have accomplished, most of all you are a teacher, the spirit of who we are. The highest honor is to be a teacher, and to transmit the spirit of who we are as Armenians and as Christians. And this is what you have achieved,” he stated, looking directly at the honoree.

“Continue to teach and transmit our Armenian spirit to our youth and to the world,” the Primate said before presenting her with the gift of a grapevine plaque from the Michael Aram collection.

Among the many students of Zarmine Boghosian who have gone on to promising careers was Arthur Ipek, a former volunteer at the Zohrab Information Center, and now a 24-year-old graduate student pursuing a career in nuclear science. He commented that “some of my most memorable and happy days were as a student at the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School with the smiling face, encouragement and leadership of Zarmine Boghosian.”

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