BY TENNY AVANESSIAN
Parsegh Ananian was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, teacher, scientist, scholar, and patriot. To my classmates at Ferrahian, he was Baron Ananian. But to me, he was more. He was a mentor, an inspirational figure, a critical thinker, strict but fair, a gentle soul, a lover of music, cats, and nature. He lived simply, but fully. He was a contradiction in terms, and therein laid his charm.
His warm smile, sense of humor, and teddy bear quality did not hint at his deep intellect, but he was a true educator. Whether it was during a dinner party at their house or a trip up to their family cabin in Bear Valley Springs, for the pure love of science, Mr. Ananian always found a way to tie the topic at hand back to physics, chemistry, or mathematics. Before you knew it, you were engaged as he demonstrated the application of the many concepts he taught in class. I was always fascinated by his ability to do this. What was his secret? Well, it was quite simple: Mr. Ananian was an educator through and through—he did it effortlessly. His life’s journey shaped this quality.
Parsegh Ananian was born on July 31, 1927 in Alexandretta, Turkey (Iskenderun) to Alexander and Marie Ananian. He was the third of four children and brother to Berjouhi, Nerses, and Satenig. When he was still a young boy, his father’s work uprooted the family and took them to Aleppo, Syria. There, he completed his primary and secondary education, later attending and graduating from Aleppo College in 1950.
Those who knew him are familiar with his thirst for knowledge, so it is no wonder that in late 1950 he moved to Beirut, Lebanon to pursue higher education. He shone as a promising and talented young mind in physics and chemistry, eventually earning his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the American University of Beirut (AUB). Still, this was not enough for him, far from it. Mr. Ananian conducted research for the AUB Department of Agriculture. At the same time, he began transitioning from student to educator as he taught chemistry, physics, and mathematics at Eshrefieh Central High School and the all-boy Rawda College.
In 1965, Mr. Ananian married Hasmig Oflazian, whom he met at Eshrefieh, and formed a model Armenian family. Sensing signs of civil unrest and the dangers that were brewing in Lebanon at the time, the young couple immigrated to Toronto, Canada by way of Montreal. However, unable to endure the cold, they eventually settled in San Fernando Valley, California. There, they were blessed with three children, Vatche, Garen, and Maral. All three attended Holy Martyrs & Ferrahian High School and were their father’s pupils. Although he was “Deddy” to his three children at home, in the classroom, he was unequivocally “Baron Ananian.”
While his wife Hasmig worked tirelessly as a dedicated nurse, Mr. Ananian earned his Master of Science in Chemistry degree from California State University, Northridge. He then went on to pursue his doctoral studies at UCLA. This effort was cut short, however. In order to work on his dissertation topic, he would need to use an electromicroscope which, at the time, was reserved for United States citizens and the military, neither of which described him.
Still, over the span of three decades, Mr Ananian graced the halls of Ferrahian Armenian High School. He was a pillar of Ferrahian’s Golden Age, leading the efforts to teach chemistry, physics, and advanced mathematics to the countless Armenian students who passed through his classroom from the 1970’s through 1990’s. As such, he was affectionately known as the “Armenian Einstein.” Even today, his former students speak of him and remember him fondly.
His unfaltering determination to enlighten his students and sincere desire to impart the gift and beauty of science, as he saw it, was undeniable to all that heard of the news of his passing on October 26, 2013. Fond memories of his kindness, determination, affection, inspirational quality, and wisdom were shared by former students on the Ferrahian Alumni Association Facebook page when news of his passing broke. I do not know of many teachers who have made the impact that he has.
I never quite understood the impact he had on my own education until my adult years. I remember the excitement with which I visited him at his home many years ago to announce that I would be following in his footsteps and begin teaching advanced mathematics at the high school level. “Tsak-es,” he told me, “eench yeghav?” That was all he could say. He was speechless and stunned. As long as he had known me, I was law school bound. So it was a surprise to him—and to myself—when I shifted gears, and it was an honor to share the news with my mentor.
I am only one example of the many lives he touched and influenced. With that, I take comfort in the loss of our beloved “Armenian Einstein.” I know his legacy will live on through his children and grandchildren, but also through his students. You will be missed, Baron Ananian, but never forgotten. As you liked to say, SAYONARA!