NEW YORK — On January 19, Alice Avedikian, a remarkable individual who lived a long and purposeful life, passed away at the age of 93, leaving behind a substantial gift to the American University of Armenia (AUA). Her endowment provides the University with significant resources to support students in their pursuit of quality higher education in Armenia.
Alice Sapho Avedikian, née Djamdjian, was born in Paris, France, on July 7, 1929, to her mother, Sateniq, née Hampikian, and father, Haiq Djamdjian. Along with her younger sister, Beatrice, Alice grew up in a close-knit family actively involved in the Armenian community and the church.
On September 1, 1939, Sateniq and Alice’s five-year-old sister took a trip from Paris to Detroit to visit their grandmother, Zarouchi Hampikian, who was battling cancer. Alice could not travel with them due to illness and stayed behind with her father. With the looming World War II and worsening conditions worldwide, the family stayed separated by vast distances, their reunion seemingly impossible. Besides, Alice and her father frequently relocated, rendering communication by mail sparse and ultimately disrupting their connection with their loved ones in Detroit.
A turning point emerged in October 1945 when Sateniq appealed for assistance from Eleanor Roosevelt, one of her clients. Utilizing her influential association with the U.S. embassy, Mrs. Roosevelt successfully located Alice and her father, furnishing Sateniq with news about their well-being and whereabouts. This connection eventually led to the unification of the family in New York City (NYC) in March 1948.
Alice held learning and education in the highest regard throughout her life. She attended local public schools and later spent a year at Beaux-Arts de Paris. In NYC, she attended Hunter College from 1949 to 1952, the year she became a U.S. citizen. Alice then completed teacher training courses at the University of the State of New York (USNY) from between 1951 to 1958, earning a private trade school teacher’s license. Education was a familial trait in their family. Alice’s mother established the Maison Sapho School of Dressmaking and Design, a pioneering haute couture school that thrived in Constantinople, then Paris, Detroit, and ultimately in NYC.
Following Haiq’s passing in 1967, her mother turned over the school to Alice, who successfully managed it until 2018, when she closed its doors at the age of 88. Known for her resolute and outspoken character, Alice possessed unwavering beliefs and cultural values instilled in her by her parents. In NYC, she maintained active involvement in the Armenian community and the Holy Cross Church. “She had strong family values and took care of all the family members around her. She also firmly believed in education, being herself a teacher of French haute couture and having several educators in the family,” attests her daughter, Jami Slater.
Alice had warmly welcomed her only child Jami at the age of 37 but gave her infant up for adoption, hoping she would get the best upbringing in a household with two parents.
Although she only reunited with Jami in January 1999, once they reconnected, they immediately felt a strong bond between them. As their relationship flourished, Alice embraced her role as a grandmother of two grandchildren, to whom she imparted strong morals with her words of wisdom, consistently stressing the importance of diligence in their studies and awareness of the world. She would advise them to “take advantage of all the opportunities given to you to experience the world and life,” Jami recalls. At the age of 50, Alice was married to her husband, Manuel Avedikian, on July 27, 1980, and together, they lived a wonderful life.
Throughout the course of her life, Alice carried a profound love for her homeland in her heart. She had the privilege of visiting Armenia on three occasions, with her most recent taking place at the age of 90. During that significant visit, Alice explored the esteemed AUA, an institution she held a deep belief. “Visiting AUA in Yerevan and having a strong belief in higher education is one of the things that inspired her to leave a gift to AUA. Congruent to AUA’s motto, ‘Aspire, Inspire, Achieve,’ Alice always aspired to inspire people to strive to learn and achieve their goals. She lived AUA’s motto without even knowing it,” Jami remarks, adding that her mother believed in higher education of all forms.
As a Special Education teacher herself, Jami hopes that the generous gift bestowed by her mother upon AUA will empower and help students at the University to enhance their lives and better their futures.
Alice Avedikian’s unwavering determination to make a lasting impact in the heart of Armenia will enable AUA to continue its mission of providing Armenian youth with unparalleled access to a world-class education.