Honoring NY-Area Early Writers and Intellectuals of the Mirror-Spectator


Armine Dikijian

By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — The banquet to honor the forthcoming 80th anniversary of the Armenian Mirror- Spectator on June 4 in New Jersey will have a little something for everyone. There will be classical music performed by Elizabeth Kalfayan, jazz with an Armenian flavor from Datevik Hovanessian and an opportunity to see old friends and support a worthy cause.

Banquet organizing committee Co-chair Shoghig Chalian announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Kurkjian will be the keynote speaker, while Peter Sourian, Florence Avakian and Nerses Babayan will salute the efforts of three great figures involved with the Mirror and the New York-area Armenian community — Jack Antreassian, Dr. Movses Housepian and Armine Dikijian.

Chalian exclaimed, “It is turning out to be a very interesting program. It promises to be a great literary and artistic evening.”

Jack (Ardavast) Antreassian (1920-2009) edited the Mirror-Spectator during the early 1940s and parts of the 1950s and 1960s. He had a long and distinguished career in various sectors of the Armenian- American community. He served, not simultaneously, as executive director of the Diocese of the Armenian Church and of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) of America. He was an innovator who established a number of important programs during the golden age of the Armenian- American community.

Antreassian founded the two organizations’ respective presses — St. Vartan and Ararat Press, his own Ashod Press and the AGBU literary quarterly, Ararat, of which he was the first editor. He helped create the Antranig Dance Group and Camp Nubar for the AGBU, and the Anahid Literary Award, which became connected to the Columbia Armenian Center. His work at the Diocese after the Armenian earthquake of 1988 led to the creation of the Fund for Armenian Relief. He wrote four books of essays, satire and poetry, edited an anthology of pieces published in Ararat, and published a number of volumes of translations from the Armenian.

Antreassian’s work will be introduced by writer Peter Sourian. Sourian, born in Boston in 1933 but raised in New York, is the author of three published novels — Miri (1957), The Best and Worst of Times (1961) and The Gate (1965), and has completed three unpublished novels. He has published a book of essays and criticism called At the French Embassy in Sofia (1992), and a number of short stories. Sourian, a Harvard graduate, taught at Bard College from 1965 to 2010. He was a television critic for The Nation (1975-81), and served on various American national awards committees and advisory boards.

Deeply influenced by French literature and culture, Sourian writes poetry in French and has done translations from French into English. A number of his works have Armenian themes, especially The Gate. Last year, a volume of Sourian’s short stories was published in Armenian translation in Yerevan as Entrik otarneri het [Supper with Strangers] and Sourian visited Armenia and Artsakh at the end of 2010 for a book tour upon the invitation of the Writers Union of Armenia. Sourian is a member of the Anahid Literary Award committee and served for many years on the editorial board of Ararat quarterly, as well as on the board of Columbia University’s Armenian Center.

Dr. Movses (Moses) Housepian (1876-1952), born in Kessab, now in Syria, fled the Hamidian massacres to England, and then came to the US in 1900. He graduated from Long Island (New York) Medical College in 1905 and practiced as a physician until his death. He unselfishly served the Armenian community, focusing on the needs of humble immigrants. He went to the Caucasus in 1916 to serve as a physician as part of the Armenian volunteer movement, and saved many lives.

Housepian became an important leader in the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL), regularly participating in New York chapter meetings and party conventions. Like the party, he was a staunch supporter of Soviet Armenia, and the work of the AGBU, and actively worked in the latter’s 1946 successful fundraising effort for repatriation. He served as a member of the central committee of the Armenian National Council of America until his death. The New York ADL chapter was named posthumously after Housepian. Housepian was a strong supporter of the Mirror-Spectator. Housepian’s children, Marjorie and Edgar, followed their father’s example and themselves soon became important leaders in the Armenian-American community.

Nerses Babayan, who will speak about Housepian, knew his family, as Mrs. Housepian was a friend of his father. Babayan moved to Boston from Beirut in order to be assistant editor of Baikar and Mirror-Spectator from 1970 to 1973. He went to Boston State College in this same period and received a master’s degree in history and political science. He attended graduate courses at Johns Hopkins in 1974. Afterwards, Babayan came to New York and opened a consulting and managerial firm. He continues to support and contribute to the Mirror-Spectator.

Dikijian (1914-1991) was a reporter and columnist for the Mirror-Spectator from 1936 until her death. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a master’s degree in library science from Columbia University, after which she worked for some two decades in the Brooklyn Public Library and several more decades as head criminal justice librarian for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. She has served the AGBU, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and St. Gregory Armenian Church in various capacities. One of her most treasured awards was a 1971 gontag or encyclical of appreciation from Catholicos and Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians Vazken I. Dikijian’s father, Diradour Dikijian, was chairman of the ADL committee which founded the weekly Armenian Mirror, the predecessor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. The Eastern Diocese instituted the Armine Dikijian Journalism Scholarship in 1987 as part of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund.

Florence Avakian will reflect upon Dikijian’s journalistic career. Avakian is an accredited United Nations journalist who has contributed to both Armenian and non-Armenian publications on a range of topics. She has been a columnist for the Mirror-Spectator. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle and Baltimore Sun. She served for many years on the editorial board of Ararat quarterly, for which she periodically wrote. For more than two decades, she has been the voice of Armenian news in English for the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey. Recently, she has delivered a number of lectures on her own adventures as a journalist. She has been the organist for St. Vartan Cathedral for some twenty years.

The June 4 banquet will take place at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpoint (100 Frank W. Burr Boulevard). Donations are $125 per person. For tickets, call Shoghig at 201-803-0240, Sirvart at 201- 739-7775, or Shemavon at 718- 344-7489. Information about the event’s keynote speaker and other aspects of the program will be presented in forthcoming articles.