Nora Azadian Honored for 20 Years of Service as Detroit Tekeyan Chairperson


By Lucy Ardash

DETROIT — “A woman of culture, a prolific artist, actress, inspiring teacher and Armenian activist” are the words Dr. Raffi Belian used to describe Nora Azadian, who was honored for her 20 years of service as chairman of Detroit’s Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) on Sunday, November 24. A festive reception at the Belian Art Center hosted by the TCA and the Belian family, brought together a diverse group of Tekeyan members and long-time friends on the occasion of her retirement as chairman of the TCA.

Guests mingled as they casually strolled through the gallery during the cocktail hour and viewed the stunning special exhibition of her paintings.

Belian welcomed the attendees and spoke of his admiration for Nora Azadian, who although has always exhibited an aristocratic flair, has been able to relate to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. “She has enriched the lives of all who know her,” he said.

Throughout the evening, friends and colleagues shared memories and praised Azadian for her integrity and principles. While at the helm of the organization, in addition to exposing the community to Armenian art and culture, she was a strong advocate for the Sponsor a Teacher Program and the Orphans’ Higher Education Program. Her efforts to help these causes will continue.

The musical interlude included pianist, Arsho Avedikian, a graduate of the Komitas Conservatory in Yerevan and violinist Harry Hovakimian who played an old romantic piece, Garmeer Varter. A recitation of Vahan Tekayan’s “Ode to the Armenian Language” was movingly recited by Anahid Toumajan. Later in the evening an impromptu performance was given by violinist Henrik Karapetian following which Mike Arzoumanian surprised the guests by playing a number of popular pieces on the piano.

Prof. Kevork Bardakjian, who holds the Marie Manoogian Chair in Armenian Language and Literature at the University of Michigan, and is a close friend of the Azadians, remarked that Nora Azadian’s retirement was merely the end of one phase and the beginning of another. He pointed out that she is always ready for new challenges.

Raised in Cairo where the leading intellectuals gathered at her home, Azadian learned first-hand about politics and the cultural events of the times. This exposure shaped her life.

Surprise guest Nora Armani, internationally known actress and film director, arrived from New York for the tribute. With deep emotion, she spoke of her close relationship with Nora Azadian, after whom she was named. Through the years they have shared many fond memories and to this day are like mother and daughter.

Of the many accolades given to the guest of honor, the most personal one was given by her husband, prominent writer Edmond Azadian, who reflected upon their initial meetings in Cairo.

At the time, Nora was a bright star of the theatre as well as a talented artist whose work was featured at an abstract painting exhibition. Edmond Azadian was editor of the Arev daily and was covering events in the art world for the newspaper. He amusingly recalled that his first encounter with Nora heightened his interest in art. To a significant degree, Nora Azadian has left a mark on her art students, one of whom is Shant Avedisian, who has become an internationally-acclaimed artist, the other one her son, prominent actor/director Gerald Papasian.

Newly-elected TCA Chairman of Diana Alexanian expressed her appreciation to Nora Azadian for her trailblazing efforts on behalf of the organization and stated that “she will be a hard act to follow.” Alexanian then presented an inscribed crystal plaque to Azadian recognizing her outstanding leadership and tireless efforts for 20 years.

Visibly moved by the tributes, Nora Azadian took the podium and thanked each of the TCA members for their continued support which made her job easier and all of the speakers for their kind words. She especially thanked her husband for his encouragement, Hagop Alexanian and Garine Koundakjian for their efforts and Zabel Belian for opening her gallery to the TCA throughout the years. She remarked, “When a person dies, friends speak of the accomplishments of the deceased, how nice it is to hear their sentiments while one is still living.”