Participants of the Cilicia conference organized by the Eastern Prelacy (November 1993). Professor Nina Garsoian is pictured seated on the right.
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan, Prelate, and the Religious and Lay Councils learned with sorrow of the passing away of Nina Garsoïan, Professor Emeritus of Armenian Studies at Columbia University, on August 14 in New York. Professor Garsoïan was an authority in Armenian and Byzantine Studies, as well as a decades-long friend and collaborator of the Eastern Prelacy. In November 1993 she chaired one of the sessions of the historical conference on Cilicia organized by the Prelacy in New York. On the occasion, she received the “Mesrob Mashdots” medal of the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia from Catholicos Karekin II in honor of her scholarship.
Born in Paris in 1923, she moved at the age of ten to New York with her parents. She left aside her intentions to become a concert pianist, as she obtained her B.A. in Classical Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College (1943). Afterwards, she earned a M.A. in Archaeology and then her doctorate in Armenian, Byzantine and Medieval History (1958) from Columbia University.
After teaching at Smith College (1956-1962), Garsoïan came to Columbia University in 1962 and became the first female professor to receive tenure at its Department of History. She later became the first female dean of the graduate school at Princeton University (1977-1979) and returned to Columbia in 1979 as the inaugural holder of the Gevork M. Avedissian Chair in Armenian History and Civilization. She retired in 1993.
She was a leading scholar in Armenian and Byzantine Studies, and a member of the generation of scholars who integrated Armenology into the highest levels of American academia. She became the first president of the Society for Armenian Studies (SAS) in 1975.
She enriched with well-researched annotations and commentaries her translations of H. A Manandian’s The Trade and Cities of Armenia in Relation to Ancient World Trade by H. A. Manandian (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1965); Nicholas Adontz’s Armenia in the Age of Justinian (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1970); Aram Ter-Ghevondyan’s The Arab Emirates in Bagratid Armenia (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1976), and The Epic Histories Attributed to Pʻawstos Buzand (Harvard University Press, 1989).
Her books in English include The Paulician Heresy (Mouton & Co., 1967), Armenia between Byzantium and the Sasanians (Variorum Publishing, 1985), Church and Culture in Early Medieval Armenia (Ashgate, 1999), and Interregnum: Introduction to a Study on the Formation of Armenian Identity (ca 600-750) (Peeters, 2012). She also published L’Église arménienne et le grand schisme d’Orient (Peeters, 1999) in French. In 2011 she published her memoirs, titled De Vita Sua (Mazda Publishers).