Obituary of Marie-Lise Gazarian
Dr Marie-Lise Gazarian passed away on July 16, 2023 in Queens, New York.
Born in Paris, Marie-Lise came to the United States at the age of twelve, when her older brother Jean joined the United Nations. She attended Adelphi and Columbia University.
Dr Gazarian, like her students knew her, spent over six decades dedicated to Spanish and Latin American Literature. A mentor to so many students, kind and generous; she was highly respected for her wisdom and sweet demeanor. She found great satisfaction transmitting knowledge and inciting students into the art of writing. She believed it was commensurate with teaching a child how to talk, to walk, to live. She once stated:
“I have to mention the word passion. I have a passion for the Spanish language, although I did begin teaching both Spanish and French, I love French literature, but Spanish has a special call.”
As the director of the Spanish graduate program at St. John’s University, Dr Gazarian inspired students to deepen their love of their language and culture through her courses. Among the courses she taught, students often enrolled in Modernism, Spanish Women Writers, Translation and Interpretation, Journalism and Creative Writing.
As Vice President for the Northeast chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, Dr Gazarian was the longest serving and most accomplished adviser in the Society’s history. In 2001, she was inducted into Sigma Delta Pi’s prestigious Orden de Don Quijote. In 2019, Dr Gazarian was awarded the Jorge Luis Borges Award, one of Sigma Delta Pi’s highest honors for “lifetime achievement of those committed to the activities of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.”
Marie-Lise interviewed over 500 writers for her shows in CBS, ABC; for newspapers, magazines, books and conferences. She was friends with literary giants including Nobel Prize Winners Gabriela Mistral, Camilo José Cela and Mario Vargas Llosa.
As a testament to her outstanding contribution to literature, Marie-Lise Gazarian was recognized by various governments and universities. In 2002, she was awarded the St. Vincent de Paul Teacher/Scholar Award from St. John’s University, the highest distinction given to a Professor. In 2003, she received the Civil Order of Alfonso X, the Wise/ Orden Civil de Alfonso X el Sabio, Spain. In 2004, she was awarded La Orden al “Mérito Gabriela Mistral”, Chile. In 2006, she received La Condecoración de la Orden Nacional "Al Mérito", Ecuador. In 2018, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award For Excellence In Education by the Ecuadorian government.
She was appointed Representative of the Fundación Premio Nobel Gabriela Mistral in New York and Cultural Ambassador of Ecuador in the United States. Marie-Lise was also a member of the PEN American Center. In addition, she was a member of the Administrative Committee of the Poet Laureate of the Borough of Queens since 1996.
Besides teaching the Spanish language and bringing to St. John's University many Spanish and Latin American writers, she kept speaking and loving her native Parisian French, the language she had spoken all the time she had stayed with her family -her grandmother Marie, her mother Nathalie and brothers Jean and Pierre- in Bretagne during World War II.
Anyone who knew Marie-Lise was fully aware that she was more than a professor, she was a citizen of the world, as if following the example of her brother Jean, member of the staff of the United Nations in New York.
Marie-Lise Gazarian is survived by the Mirimanoff family, from Geneva, Switzerland. Marie-Lise remains in the hearts of those who loved her: Mariluz Singh-Molares, Pía Solines, Monica Christopher, Alex Lima, Nieves Alonso Almagro, Anil Singh-Molares, Rajeev Singh-Molares, Katya Damsky, Lehidyt Montesinos, the Cheadle Family, Myrna Fuentes, Pilar Écija and family, the Babaian Family, Roxane Sirotto, the Solis Campuzano Family, friends, students, colleagues and Molly Blanchette, her loving Dachshund.
A Prayer Service at St Thomas Moore Church, St John’s University, was held on October 3rd, 2023, the day of her birthday, where friends, colleagues and students paid tribute to Marie-Lise.