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Who was Sara Jaffarian?

Born into an Armenian family in Haverhill, Massachusetts on September 7, 1915, Sara Jaffarian – eponym of the Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award – was the eleventh and last child of Mugerdich Jaffarian and his wife Quhar Jaffarian (nee Nablandian). She graduated from Haverhill High School in 1933.

Ms. Jaffarian received her undergraduate degree in social studies at Bates University in 1937. She subsequently earned her library science degree at Simmons College and a master’s of education degree from Boston University.

She began her career as a librarian in the public school system of Quincy, Massachusetts. Ms. Jaffarian later served as the Director of Libraries for the Greensboro Public Schools in North Carolina and the Supervisor of Libraries for the Seattle Public Schools.
In 1961, she returned to her home state to design and develop a school library program in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she became the Coordinator of Instructional Materials and Services. Under her leadership, the Lexington Public Schools won an Encyclopedia Britannica School Library Award in 1964.

Sara Jaffarian held numerous offices and committee appointments, including A.L.A. Councilor, board member and recording secretary of the A.A.S.L., a member of the Newbery-Caldecott Awards Committee, and president of the Massachusetts Association of School Librarians.

“Throughout my career, I worked in many capacities to promote the idea that every school needs a library,” said Ms. Jaffarian. “In order to have an excellent school, there must be an excellent school library! To achieve this, more is needed than just books and other materials—curriculum-related programming has the power to take a school library to the next level, exciting students, bringing in parents, and getting the attention of administrators and community leaders. I’m delighted to establish an award that will not only recognize excellence in this arena, but also provide training for school librarians across the country.”

According to her Eagle-Tribune obituary, “Ms. Jaffarian was philanthropic to many worthy causes including, the senior reading room at the Haverhill Public Library, the Advent Christian Church elevator and kitchen renovations, and the Armenian Church at Hye Pointe in Haverhill,[1] and to the ALA from which there has been an award in her name since 2007… Sara felt strongly that, ‘In order to have an excellent school, there must be an excellent school library.’”

Sara Jaffarian died at age ninety-eight on December 24, 2013 (Christmas Eve). She is survived by her nieces and nephews, including Lois Jaffarian of Bozeman, Montana; Barbara Dunham of Sebago, Maine; Robert Jaffarian of Boston; Dr. Deborah McAllister of Chattanooga, Tennessee; great-nephews, including Mark and Gary Jaffarian; as well as great-great-niece and great-great-nephew, Mara and Gavin Jaffarian.

[1] The Armenian Church at Hye Point represents the 2002 merger of two parishes of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the northern Merrimack Valley: St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Haverhill and Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church in Lawrence, Massachusetts. [In 301 A.D., St. Gregory the Illuminator converted Armenian King Tiridates III, and Armenia became the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion. This was twelve years before Emperor Constantine I of the Western Roman Empire and his brother-in-law Licinius I of the Eastern Roman Empire issued the Edict of Milan, which ended the Great Persecution started by Emperor Diocletian.] It was the first time the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America merged two parishes. The problem for the old Holy Cross Parish was that many of the parishioners had moved out of Lawrence into suburbs, while the problem for the old St. Gregory the Illuminator Parish was that the old church building, erected around 1848 is in need of extensive repairs and renovations. The parish sold Holy Cross Church to what local journalist Yadira Betances called “a Hispanic Evangelical church.” The parish is building a new church, cultural hall, and Sunday school at Hye Point at 1280 Boston Road in Haverhill (either in the Ward Hill or Bradford neighborhoods of Haverhill) to serve Armenian Apostolic Christians in the northern Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire. During the construction project, Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalyan is performing Masses, weddings, baptisms, etc. in St. Gregory the Illuminator Church at 110 Main Street in Haverhill until the parish can sell this church. As of 2011, when a newly-ordained Fr. Gyozalyan became pastor, only about 50-to-100 people attended weekly church services, but some 600 families belonged to the parish, Ms. Betances reported.