WASHINGTON–The estate of the late K. Yervant and Helen Terzian, two dedicated Armenian-Americans who long sustained and helped lead the Armenian community and cause, has established a lasting legacy of service to the Armenian nation in their memory with a $75,000 bequest to the ANCA Endowment Fund.
The K. Yervant and Helen Terzian Fund will be permanently endowed, with proceeds from their gift being used to empower Armenian American civic and educational efforts to ensure the survival of Armenia, the empowerment of the Armenian people, and the advancement of the Armenian Cause.
Karnig Yervant Terzian was born on July 4, 1928 in Khartoum, Sudan to Yeznig and Hripsime (Nakashian) Terzian, who were originally from Dikranagerd. He was the middle child between two sisters, Sona and Arda. Eventually, the Terzian family settled in Beirut, Lebanon. After the untimely death of his mother, Yervant was loved and guided by his stepmother, Marie Ajemian and her extended family. Yervant graduated from The American University of Beirut in July 1949 with both BA and BS degrees in Civil Engineering. He came to the United States in 1951, received an MS degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in July 1954, and on February 4, 1957 became a US citizen. His language skills included English, Armenian, French, and Arabic.
Helen was born on July 29, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Arakel and Navasart Shamlian. She was their middle child between older sister Maritza and younger brother George. She was a graduate of Girls High School of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia School of Office Training. She was employed for five years in the publishing and printing field. During her AYF years, she was especially active as co-advisor to the fledgling AYF Junior chapter.
Helen and Yervant Terzian were married on December 21, 1958 and together formed a loving relationship that centered on family, home, the numerous Armenian activities and causes that were dear to their hearts and his professional activities. They traveled widely to the Near East, Middle East, to Europe and Africa. The home that they created reflected the diversity and richness of their interests and travels. Their partnership in all things was reflected throughout their lives, including their involvement in Armenian community affairs and through Helen’s tireless service, without pay, as secretary for the engineering company Yervant founded, during the early years of the firm’s growth.
Both Yervant and Helen were passionate about their Armenian heritage and were deeply involved in many aspects of the Armenian community. With Yervant serving in the more public role and Helen providing behind-the-scenes support, their primary interests were the Armenian Church on the local, national, and international levels; the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), an Armenian political party founded in 1890 whose mission is to establish a free, independent and united Armenia; and the Armenian Sisters Academy in Radnor, PA.
Their community involvement also extended beyond these organizations. For instance, with Helen’s able assistance, Yervant served as chairman of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern U.S.A. Earthquake Committee and as ARS representative for the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra concerts in New York and Washington, DC; a member of Hamazkayin (the Armenian Cultural and Educational Society); and a founding member of the Philadelphia Intercommunal Committee.
On May 21, 2004, Yervant was awarded, and Helen accepted on his behalf, the Prince “Ishkhan” of Cilicia Medal by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon for his lifetime of involvement. This is the highest honor bestowed upon lay persons in the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Yervant had a rewarding and illustrious career in the civil engineering field that spanned five decades. As a founder and senior partner of Urban Engineers, Inc. Yervant was in charge of all structural design of both bridges and buildings, transit design, construction management, testing and inspection, and mass transportation planning. Having worked on hundreds of projects throughout his career, he had the opportunity to shape the transportation systems in the region and grew the firm to be one of the preeminent engineering companies in Philadelphia. On November 17, 1993, Urban Engineers honored him for his more than three decades of leadership, commitment and professionalism in a ceremony presided over by then-Mayor Ed Rendell.
Throughout his life, Yervant proved to be a mild-mannered and modest person who was highly intelligent and knowledgeable in many fields, especially engineering and Armenian issues. He was patient as well as generous and willingly assisted all who asked, while quietly serving the engineering industry and the Armenian community. His strong presence, contagious laugh, caring way, and gentle heart are missed by all who knew and loved him.
Helen is remembered as a soft spoken, friendly, gentle person with definitive tastes and style, who loved life, her family, and community. The legacy she has left is that of quiet volunteerism, wide-ranging interests, gracious hospitality and happy times. “As a couple, they moved mountains and set a fine example for others to follow as far as community involvement and support are concerned” said George Shamlian, Helen’s brother.
News of the establishment of this Fund was warmly welcomed by Yervant’s and Helen’s family, the ANCA Endowment, and Yervant’s fellow community leaders. “While we dearly miss both Yervant and Helen in our lives, we are extremely proud of their lifetime of accomplishments and are comforted in knowing that this perpetual donation will allow the ANCA to educate future leaders and continue the work that they dedicated their lives to and so eagerly supported” noted George Shamlian, on behalf of the family.
“On behalf of the ANCA Endowment I want to share our profound respect and admiration for the powerful leadership that Yervant and Helen Terzian provided our community during their lifetimes of selfless service to the Armenian Cause, and to express our heartfelt thanks to the Terzian estate for establishing, in their memory, a lasting legacy of service to the values they so dearly cherished,” said ANCA Endowment Fund President Ken Hachikian. “As a longtime friend and fellow activist who served for years alongside Yervant Terzian on the front lines of the Armenian Cause, I knew him as a role model to the younger generation with his commitment, dedication, and vision. He always put the community first before any of his own concerns and instilled those values in the next generation. He leaves a valuable legacy for all of us to learn from.”
“Unger Yervant Terzian’s contribution to the steady development, over the years, of our community structures in the Eastern Region of the U.S. will always be remembered by those who shared with him the difficult struggles of our diasporan life. He was a tireless leader constantly in pursuit of excellence in the dynamic existence of the Armenian community on these shores. Devotion to the well-being of the community, to our aspirations and to our cause has always been the motivating force in his life,” said Garo Armenian of McLean, Virginia, a longtime leader of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation at the Eastern U.S. and international levels, and a friend of the Terzian family. “With his wife Helen at his side, Unger Yervant was at the center of every complicated community undertaking. He inspired confidence when things seemed beyond our reach and worked hard to make things happen. For many years, he was elected Chairman of the ARF Eastern Region Central Committee. It was during his tenure – and on his watch – that the ANCA came into being as the legitimate political voice of the community representing our nationwide grass-roots. While a sincere believer in national consensus, he also believed in the leading role that the ARF had to play in the pursuit of Hai Tahd and that, I think, will be his undying legacy.”
“Yervant was devoted to Hai Tahd, the Armenian Cause, and had the full support of his wife, Helen. Behind the scenes, she assisted him in many administrative matters. They complemented each other. I would like to call them the ‘perfect Hai Tahd Couple.’ They were the rare exception, where husband and wife are both devoted to the Cause,” said Vram Yegparian, a longtime community leader who served with Yervant Terzian for many years on the Eastern U.S. ARF Central Committee and in many other capacities. “Many times, Central Committee meetings were held at the Terzians’ home in Philadelphia. Several of us, out-of-towners, would end up spending the night at their residence, which, over the years, had hosted illustrious Armenian leaders, such as Simon Vratzian, ARF leader of the founding generation and a towering figure of the First Republic. On these occasions we would sometimes jokingly fight over the use of the particular bed in which Vratzian had slept.” “Yervant as a member and Chairman of the Central Committee for many years, was instrumental in initiating the creation and organization of the ANCA. Prior to the ANCA’s existence, the two Armenian National Committees in the U.S., namely the Eastern and Western ANC regions, acted separately. Numerous meetings and expending tremendous effort were necessary to create the ANCA and set up a viable mechanism and organization which would act as a single entity,” added Yegparian.
Tatul Sonentz-Papazian, noted writer and poet, longtime community leader, friend of the Terzians, and Yervant Terzian’s colleague on the ARF Eastern U.S. Central Committee, in the wake of his passing, composed a moving poem, Rivers, about their friendship. The poem is reprinted in full below.
R I V E R S . . .
To my late comrade in arms, K. Yervant Terziana
We were both weaned
From the waters of the Nile
Both the White and the Blue –
You much earlier at a tender age
Leaving behind the sights and
Scents of two caring mothers
Now one – earth and dust
Till the end of time…
I took my leave much later
The Middle East sun baked us both
Into early manhood full of dreams
Rising like Vahagn from the sun
That boiled the gore at Avarayr
On the banks of another river
Tghmut – murky with tears…
We packed our dreams and sailed West
On the freezing banks of the Charles
A river that first ran red at freedom’s call
Our paths led us both to the same place –
A new outpost of a forlorn Homeland –
Where you made your firm stand
As a sentinel true to your oath
Ever constant as the Nile…
And you took your last leave
From those we both loved so well
Leaving us your sunny smile.