This Week in Armenian History

Death of Louise Nalbandian (December 2, 1926)

Louise Nalbandian was one of the pioneering names in Armenian Studies in the 1960s, with a promising career cut tragically short by a car accident.  

She was born in San Francisco on September 12, 1926. She taught junior high and high school, and she was a lecturer of Armenian history at UCLA (1960-1961). She had completed her doctorate at Stanford University (1959), where she wrote her thesis on Armenian political parties, which was later published by the University of California Press under the title The Armenian Revolutionary Movement: The Development of Armenian Political Parties through the Nineteenth Century (1963, reprint 1967). She was the first woman hired in what was then the male bastion of history at California State University (Fresno) in 1964 and gradually developed offerings in her main field of interest. She was made professor in 1972.  

Nalbandian was the first to teach an Armenian course starting in the spring semester 1967, “Armenian History.” She offered the course every semester she was on campus. In the fall of 1969, she instituted another course of interest to Armenia and the Middle East entitled “The Ancient Fertile Crescent.” Later in the spring of 1972 and again in 1974 she twice taught “Soviet Armenia” in the History Department.   

Due to the surge in interest in ethnic studies, and perhaps in part to the university’s accepting to offer an Ethnic Studies Program after widespread unrest on campus, Louise Nalbandian was able to push for more Armenian content courses. By 1970, she had managed to recruit two new teachers, Serpouhie Messerlian as Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages to teach Armenian and Dr. Arra Avakian as Professor of Ethnic Studies to teach Armenian culture.  

By 1972 a minor in Armenian Language was offered through the Department of Foreign Languages and several courses were included in the General Education Program. The 1973-4 and the 1974-5 university catalogues listed her as Coordinator of Armenian Studies. The continued growth of the Program was temporarily and dramatically halted by Louise Nalbandian’s death at the age of 48 in a highway accident in Stanislaus Country, California, on December 2, 1974. She was buried at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma. She left an unfinished manuscript, The Socialist Movement among Armenians, on the first 20 years of the Hunchakian Party.