PASADENA—When William Saroyan famously wrote, in August of 1935 in New York City, of two Armenians being able to create a new Armenia anywhere in the world, he must have had in mind Levon and Hasmig Tavlian. This remarkable couple, born of genocide survivors from Yozgat and Sis in historic Armenia, created a new Armenia in the City of Pasadena by supporting the creation of a pre-school that today, proudly bears their name. The school, launched in 1992, was the brainchild of Hasmig Tavlian and begun after her passing by her proud sons Vazken, Vatche and Vahe.
Today, the Levon and Hasmig Tavlian Armenian Pre-School is among the most pre-eminent educational centers in southern California, serving as the only Armenian kindergarten in Pasadena accredited by The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). For knowledgeable parents, the NAEYC Accreditation has become the mark of quality, helping parents find the best possible early childhood experience.
The story of Levon and Hasmig Tavlian is a wonderful one. Having grown up in Beirut, they married in 1951. Levon was a jeweler, who began his career working for others, but quickly opened his own store in the bustling streets of Beirut. His wife and life partner Hasmig, was a dedicated member of the Armenian community in Lebanon. In addition to being a loving mother to her three sons, Hasmig was engaged in the life of the Armenian Church through the Ladies Guild.
When Levon and Hasmig moved to America in 1978, they settled in the City of Pasadena, with their sons who had come to the country years earlier. Their sons Vatche and Vahe completed their education in Civil Engineering and would later pursue successful careers in real estate development. Levon and his son Vazken continued their work as jewelers and Hasmig continued her efforts with the Ladies Guild for the Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena. Yet, despite her deep involvement in the church, it was always Hasmig’s fervent dream to start a pre-school in Pasadena. For her husband Levon, his wife’s dream was also his own.
“My mother believed that at a young age you can instill the Armenian spirit within a child through a strong Armenian school,” recounted her son Vahe Tavlian. “My mother was well read and was especially focused on safeguarding the Armenian language, which she believed, is an essential part of creating an enduring Armenian identity with a new generation of Armenian American children. When she passed away in 1991, my father and two brothers knew the best way to honor her life was to honor her dream, to create an Armenian pre-school in the City of Pasadena,” Tavlian added.
By donating the seed money to start the school in 1992, the Tavlian family was able to launch the school with a grand total of four students. Soon thereafter, Vahe Tavlian would begin an eight year term as chairman of the church Board for the Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena and later the Tavlian School Board, which gave him a front row seat to all the challenges his family and the community would face in keeping his mother’s dream alive.
In recounting the early years of the Levon and Hasmig Tavlian Armenian Pre-School, Vahe Tavlian remembered two distinct facts. First, his entire family was committed to supporting the school, through charity events and old-fashioned hard work. Second, he does remember dark moments, when it seemed like the school’s future was in jeopardy. During those dark moments, Tavlian recounted, it was the faith of his mother that inspired him and his family to rally the community to ensure the success of the pre-school. That faith, it turns out, was well placed, because Tavlian’s success as an educational institution has exceeded all expectations.
As he recounted his memories of the school and his sense of pride for the educational institution that bears his parents name, Vahe Tavlian wistfully added this. “The success I have had in my life has no comparison to the brilliant success of the Tavlian School and the joy I feel when I hear the children at the school sing the school anthem at their year-end performance, or hantes. That feeling makes me spiritually proud, proud of my parents, and proud of their children who never stopped believing in their dream to establish an Armenian pre-school in Pasadena. Every success in my life has no comparison to hearing the sweet Armenian melodies that the children sing in the safe and welcoming environment that their school provides. I only wish my mother and father were present to hear them with me,” he added with a smile. He concluded with a wish, “that every Armenian would emulate the idea of pursuing a dream that benefits our community and our collective future.”
On May 4 a broad and diverse number of dedicated Armenian Americans will gather at a celebratory banquet to mark the 20th anniversary of the Tavlian Armenian Pre-School. The banquet will be held at Armenian Society of Los Angeles Additional information on the banquet may be secured by contacting the school office by phone at 626-398-8199. Consistent with their longtime support for the school, the Tavlian brothers are sponsoring the May 4th banquet.
Background on the Tavlian Armenian Pre-School, which has served our community with distinction for over two decades, may be found at the school’s user-friendly website: www.tavlianpreschool.org.