Washington, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) mourns the loss of educator and scholar Dr. Dennis Papazian, who served as a leader and pillar of the Armenian community through his achievements in academia, advocacy and church stewardship. In addition to his tenure as a professor, Dr. Papazian served as the Co-Chairman of the Assembly and the founding Executive Director in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1970s.
Dr. Papazian was honored with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award by the Assembly during its 50th Anniversary Gala held in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2022.
Upon accepting his award, Dr. Papazian looked back on his position as Director of the Assembly and noted that “a couple of months turned into three years,” namely because of the “enthusiasm of the Steering Committee to make the organization work.”
“What I discovered back then was if you want to be successful, you can’t worry about who gets credit,” he said. “By working together, we all succeed and can lead Armenians onto a more glorious future.”
Under Dr. Papazian’s leadership as Executive Director of the Assembly, the organization worked with key elected officials to secure passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the House of Representatives. He was also instrumental in implementing a number of Assembly programs, including its Summer Internship Program in Washington, D.C. and the Lebanon Aid Project, with grants which he helped secure from the U.S. Agency for International Development to support the recovery of the Armenian community in Beirut.
Born the youngest of four children in Augusta, Georgia, to Armenian immigrant parents, Dr. Papazian and his family moved to a budding Armenian community in Detroit, Michigan in the mid-1940s. Dr. Papazian earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Wayne State University, and a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, which coincided with special courses of study at Harvard University and Moscow State University, as he became one of the first American students to study in the then-Soviet Union. Dr. Papazian taught at the University of Michigan, Dearborn from 1962 until his retirement in 2006.
His academic work coincided with his involvement in the Armenian American community, providing a lifetime of service in Armenian Genocide education, awareness, and affirmation.
As the founding director of the Armenian Research Center (ARC) at the University of Michigan, Dearborn in 1985, Dr. Dennis Papazian made major contributions to academia by facilitating research and publications on all aspects of Armenian history, literature, and culture. ARC’s rich depository of documentation, publications, periodicals, audio-visual collections, and oral histories of Armenian Genocide survivors is first-rate, and serves as an international center for scholars and students focused on the research, dissemination, and publication of all things Armenian.
Dr. Papazian traveled extensively, presenting papers and delivering lectures in several countries. He conducted research on the USSR and personally worked with the U.S. Department of State to coordinate an exchange between the University of Michigan and Moscow State University. In 1976, he received an award from the State Department honoring his work as a scholar and diplomat, which was followed by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1977, and an award from the U.S. Agency for International Development in 1978.
Dr. Papazian is survived by his wife, academic Dr. Mary Papazian, who most recently served as President of San Jose State University, and their two daughters, Ani and Marie.
Memorial services will be held across the country to honor Dr. Papazian’s life. Visitation will be held at St. Andrew Armenian Church in Cupertino, CA on Thursday, March 30 at 6:00 pm with a prayer service at 7:00 pm. The funeral service will take place at St. Leon Armenian Cathedral in Burbank, CA and will be officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian on Tuesday, April 4 at 9:30 am. A graveside service will follow at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, with a memorial luncheon to follow. A 40-day memorial service will take place at St. John’s Armenian Church in Southfield, MI on Sunday, April 30, with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Dennis R. Papazian Memorial Foundation for advancing Armenian scholarship, education, and leadership. Donations can be mailed to the Dennis R. Papazian Memorial Foundation in the care of Robert Arshagouni, 9176 Independence Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311.