CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — Businesswoman and Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) leader Helen Irma Der Stepanian passed away on May 26 in New Jersey. She worked for many years as head of Marketing and Business Development at BNP Paribas in New York City.
Der Stepanian was born in Damascus on June 10, 1936, the daughter of noted ADL leader Mihran Der Stepanian and his wife Alice. Mihran was a well-known writer and journalist originally from Dortyol, Cilicia.
The Der Stepanian family moved from Syria to Lebanon, where Irma received her higher education in the University of Saint Joseph, a French university. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, she earned master’s degrees in international economy, political science, international law, public law, international economy, and French literature and history.
In the 1970s the family moved to New Jersey. Der Stepanian continued her education in New York, taking courses in banking studies at the American Banruptcy Institute (ABI) and the New School, and even later took courses towards a doctorate in Middle Eastern politics.
Der Stepanian was a volunteer throughout her life, primarily for Armenian organizations. She noted in a resume that her training for volunteer work started at the age of five, visiting poor families and old people with her mother, father and other relatives. In Damascus while in school she was the member of a youth committee of the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Armenian Church. In Beirut, she started the Health Program in the Tekeyan Armenian School there, helped the Armenian Red Cross to carry out their health program, helped Lebanese political prisoners and their families, and served as a member of the Cultural Committee of the local AGBU.
In the United States, Der Stepanian served as an active member of the ADL District Committee of the US and Canada. With the late Dr. Haroutiun Arzoumanian, she revised the By-Laws of the ADL and was the keynote speaker in 1990 in a fundraising event for the Baikar Weekly in Boston. She was also a member of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada.