Vartouhie Balian

Montreal Educator, ADL and TCA Pillar Vartouhie Balian Passes Away

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MONTREAL — Educator and Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) and Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) pillar Vartouhie Balian passed away on August 19 in Montreal.

She was born in Alexandrette (then under Syrian control) to Arsene Balian and Loussaper Shakelian, both originally from Chork-Marzban (Dört-Yol), on December 13, 1932. She moved with her family at a young age to Beirut. After graduating there from the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)’s Tarouhi Hagopian Girls’ Secondary School in 1950, she studied psychology at the American University of Beirut and specialized in pedagogy.

Before her marriage, she taught Armenian language and Armenian history at Beirut’s Giligian [Cilician] National School (later renamed Apkarian Giligian School) and was appointed by the local Diocese as vice-principal. Along with this work, she taught for five years at a local Armenian Sunday School.

In November 1956, she married Onnig Balian and moved to Aleppo. In 1968, the couple and their children Ara and Maral moved to Montreal. In her new country of Canada, Vartouhie Balian became busy with community, educational, and political party activities.

In 1970, she began her collaboration with Dr. Arshavir Gundjian, one of the founders of the AGBU Alex Manoogian School. She served as principal of this school until 2002, where she also taught Armenian history and language. Her motherly care of the Armenian students became the reason for many parents to register their children at this school, which by now has produced over 1,000 graduates. It is an important educational institution which also perpetuates the Armenian identity.

Balian, as principal, was given a golden medal upon the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the school. She also received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. This medal was awarded in Canada to nominees who made exemplary contributions to public life.

Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and accompanying certificate

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She was a member of the administrative body of the Saturday School of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Montreal, where she both taught and served as principal. She received the St. Sahag – St. Mesrob Medal and an accompanying encyclical from Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I in November 1987 in recognition of her educational contribution throughout her career for Armenians.

Balian played a major role in the organization of Montreal’s Tekeyan Cultural Association. She was one of the pillars of Montreal’s Armenian Democratic Liberal Party Eugene Papazian Chapter and one of the founders of the trilingual newspaper Abaka.

She was a frequent public speaker and writer and an organizer of community life who did not shy away from faithfully defending the institutions, organizations and ideology that she believed in and served.

Vartouhie Balian leaves behind her children Ara Balian and Maral (Kevork) Partamian, as well as her granddaughter Chloe Balian. Other surviving relatives include Anahid Santourian and family (Cyprus), Ohannes and Lena Minoyan and family, Sirvart Soukiassian and family, Sirvart Balian and family (Sweden), and the entire Kojayan, Akkelian, Chakelian, Balian and Yeguenian families.

Visitation and funeral services took place at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Cathedral of Montreal on August 24, followed by burial at Saint-Laurent Cemetery.

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