BELMONT — After 60 years of leadership in Armenian Studies, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) has hired its first executive director, Sarah B. Ignatius, who will start the first of the year at its headquarters.
Ignatius, a lawyer, has served on NAASR’s Board of Directors since 2014 and as a member of its Executive Committee as treasurer. “This is a major change in the history of NAASR to appoint an executive director,” said Raffi P. Yeghiayan, chairman of NAASR’s Board of Directors. “We are taking this step due to NAASR’s significant growth and expanded activities over the last several years, both locally and nationally. We have full confidence that NAASR will continue its growth with the vision of a professionally qualified executive director.”
The executive director functions have long been shared among NAASR’s Executive Committee, Board of Directors and Director of Academic Affairs Marc A. Mamigonian. Ignatius will work with them to fulfill NAASR’s mission of fostering Armenian Studies and building community worldwide to preserve Armenian culture, history and identity for future generations.
“After a several-month search, Sarah emerged as our choice to take us into the next era,” said Nancy R. Kolligian, who chaired NAASR’s Search Committee. “We’ve had the pleasure of working with her as a NAASR Board member, and have witnessed first-hand her enthusiasm, dedication to Armenian Studies, and depth of experience in non-profit management.”
“I am honored to serve NAASR in this role and can’t imagine a more meaningful opportunity,” said Ignatius. “My hope is to expand NAASR’s membership, strengthen its financial standing, and keep NAASR vital in a diversifying world.”
Founded in 1955, NAASR is the only nationwide organization dedicated to the advancement of Armenian Studies through America’s foremost institutions of higher education and through a multifaceted program in support of research, scholarship, public programs, and publications.
Ignatius has worked for more than 25 years as a lawyer and executive director, most of that time at the Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project in Boston, defending the rights of people fleeing from persecution throughout the world. Previously, she also worked as an associate at a law firm in Seattle and a public defender.
Her interest in Armenian Studies deepened dramatically after she accompanied her father and brother on the 2006 NAASR tour to Armenia and Historic Armenia. “It was like opening a door in my house and finding all these beautiful rooms I never knew existed.”
Her interest deepened to the point of writing a young adult novel, The Devil’s Kaleidoscope, set in the town where her grandfather was born, about a 14-year-old Armenian boy, Arakel, caught up in the Genocide. As a 2015 Somerville Arts Council Literature Artist Fellow, she is putting the finishing touches on her manuscript, which has already received recognition: 2015 New England Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators’ Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship for Novel Excerpt; and Honorable Mention from the 2014 National League of American Pen Women, Soul-Making Keats Awards. Her short story Burning Embers received Honorable Mention from Glimmer Train’s 2013 Short Story Award for New Writers, and her recent posting “The Very Delayed First Call Home” appeared in the Washington Post “On Parenting” Blog.
Ignatius earned her BA from Stanford University with Distinction and Honors in Anthropology; and her law degree, cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was Articles Editor for the Journal of Law and Policy in International Business.
She taught immigration and asylum law at Boston College Law School for 10 years as an adjunct, and has written extensively on immigration and asylum law. She is the co-author of the comprehensive immigration law reference book Immigration Law and the Family (Thomson Reuters); and authored a 200-page, detailed report for the National Asylum Study Project of Harvard Law School. Her legal articles have appeared in numerous journals and publications.
She is the daughter of Paul Ignatius, former Secretary of the Navy, and Nancy Ignatius, a hearty New Englander who traces roots back to the Mayflower. Sarah is married to Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and their son Joel attends Wesleyan University. Her siblings are Adi Ignatius, Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Business Review; Amy Ignatius, New Hampshire Superior Court Judge; and David Ignatius, a foreign affairs columnist for the Washington Post and author of several best-selling spy novels.