Obituary: Joy Renjilian-Burgy, Longtime Wellesley College Professor


BOULDER, Colo. — Joy Renjilian-Burgy, longtime Professor of Spanish Language and Literature at Wellesley College, author, editor, teacher-trainer, and social activist, passed away peacefully on January 14, 2024, at Boulder, where she had retired to be near her twin sons, Sarkis and Lucien.

Born in Holyoke, Mass., in 1924, she was the daughter of Sarkis Renjilian and Aznive Melidonian, both survivors of the Armenian Genocide. After graduating from Mt.  Holyoke High School and Mt. Holyoke College, she continued her higher education in education and Spanish language at Harvard University, where she also taught Spanish at the Extension School for several years.

Prof. Renjilian-Burgy retired in the summer of 2022 after 42 years of service as one of Wellesley College’s leading experts in foreign language and literature pedagogy, a brilliant instructor of Spanish, a mentor, ally, and friend to generations of students and alums, and a tireless advocate for educational equity.

The recipient of dozens of awards, fellowships, and grants, including the Harvard Foreign Language teaching prize, Prof. Renjilian-Burgy held leadership positions in several associations, including the AATSP (American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese), NECLAS (New England Council for Latin American Studies), and MaFLA (Mass. Foreign Language Association).

An educator of wide interests, Renjilian-Burgy was also active in the Armenian-American community, holding several leadership positions in the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA), where she was a former president, treasurer, member of the finance, international conference, and publications committees; recently she had been most active with the AIWA Scholarship Committee, where she funded for several years a scholarship dedicated to her mother, Aznive Melidonian. She was also an enthusiastic supporter of the Armenian Museum of America, where she served for many years as a trustee.

The member of a large, extended family, Renjilian-Burgy is survived by her husband of many years, the artist Donald Burgy, her twin sons, Sarkis and Lucien, and her sisters, Josh, Sally, and Margaret.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

An online celebration of life for Joy Renjilian-Burgy is scheduled for Sunday, February 18, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Zoom:

Get the Mirror-Spectator Weekly in your inbox: