O’Saadia, our righteously just Houman will eternally be remembered….It’s others who did not care for humanity, that are trusted to oblivion bin
Back in the 1990’s a small group of alike minded Iranian-Americans pluralized a common vision to found an organization with the mission of advocating for justice, equality, and equal opportunity for Iranian-Americans and to bring about well-earned recognition in the U.S. for our Community and our ancestral heritage in Iran. There was among a few others Ala the orthopedic surgeon, Kamyar the pediatrician, Afshin and Babak the civil rights attorneys, Fariba and myself the university educators, Mojgan and Susan the corporate leaders, and then the one and only Professor Houman Younessi! Very soon, PERSIAN WATCH CAT (as in American Watch Dog!), aka the Iranian-American Anti-Discrimination Council, was born with its by-laws, website, diverse membership from all walks of life, regional chapters, etc. PWC remained active for nearly ten years with numerous articles and Op-Eds published on the multifaceted contributions of Iranians especially those in the diaspora, conferred with elected officials and policy makers, ran successful petitions to ensure our culture and community here were objectively showcased in the mainstream media, and took on a few major corporate, media and universities to exert justice in favor of Iranian plaintiffs. The PWC’s activities were later absorbed by the then the newly founded NIAC and PAAIA. In the daily dozen email exchanges among the PWC Board, Houman spoke or wrote very little and was as a result initially misconstrued as being condescending or ambivalent; however, when he did, he spoke with volume, clarity, wit, reason, rationale, logic, empathy, compassion, and decisiveness. What was most strikingly unique about Houman, coming across as un-Persian to most initially, was his communication style and demeanor. Don’t get me wrong, Houman forever loved his motherland Iran and his people anywhere, and contributed substantively toward the recognition of our homeland’s history, nature, people, and especially advocacy before non-Iranians. Since he had spent most his life since teen-ager time outside Iran, however, his communicative psyche was a refined synergism between the orient’s and the occident’s approach to life.
In retrospect, Houman was compassionately genuine, nonetheless, candid and with direct expressions. Many of us then, when dealing with other Persian old timers, were still resorting subconsciously to the traditional pleasantries and compliments (Ta’arof) that we had carried from back home; however, Houman was different, and hence, he was immediately recognized for his most effective “ no nonsense” model to emulate by his students, peers and friends. He avoided the typical focus on the messenger, as most of us did; instead, he evaluated the message shared by anyone, and expressed his business-like or scholarly opinion, while avoiding any personal attacks, smears or slander. Simply because his virtual oration or advice was not wrapped around with the typical Persian flowery language, many among us initially found it a bit harsh, but ultimately everyone came around to appreciate his style. It was not, therefore, surprising to witness his courageous resolve in self-reliance, resilience, hope, and perseverance, envied by us all, which later became the impetus for his protracted health battle for life.
My family was honored to know Houman’s family when we regularly exchanged visits at the two ends of the 87 mile corridor of I-84; we spent precious hours talking about a wide array of subjects: life, family, careers, justice, politics, current affairs, elections, international perspectives, arts, history, as well as advances in science and technology of course while sipping Persian cardamom tea or eat his favorite Hamedani Aash. He was an avid reader and deep thinker throughout his life (again, he was not a typical Persian, having acquired depth in one discipline and familiarity with the lingo and jargon on the surface of a few dozen other subjects.) I soon learned to stop claiming super authority in any subject under discussion, and instead to listen mostly to what he shared while refraining from interrupting him. I came around to fully appreciate not only his depth but breadth of knowledge in a dozen or more diverse disciplines, equivalent to a dozen Ph.D. degrees earned honoris causa. His lifelong commitment to universal humanism with humility, and as tackled through his philanthropy, civic activism, altruism, and volunteerism will remain unrivaled forever. His passion for teaching, sharing and imparting good onto others around him and far away through correspondence, was simply contagious.
Alas, Professor Houman Younessi, 52, passed away in Hartford, CT on Thursday, March 24, 2016, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born in Tehran on May 28, 1963, the son of Parviz and Farah Younessi. He is survived by his loving wife, Sheyda, son, Daniel (Zhubin), mother, Farah, and brother, Dr. James Younessi.
A true Renaissance man, a professor, an international authority on informatics, computer science, IT cyber security, and functional genomics, and the prolific author of several books and numerous scientific articles, as an Alborzi alumnus, Houman's academic career spanned research, teaching, service, and [dean] leadership stints at Swinburne University of Technology (Australia), RPI (CT), UCONN (CT) and Jackson Laboratory (CT). He was also an avid photographer, nature lover, an accomplished poet, and held a vast knowledge of world and Persian history and aesthetics. Although he had did not travel to his motherland for four decades, he was in tune in his heart and mind with every aspect of Iran, past, present and future. We often reminisced about many historical sites, especially Hamedan his ancestral place of origin, a city in existence for at least five millennia, hovered over by the majestic Alvand Mountain. In fact, one of the attributes that brought us close from the outset, was our childhood. He grew up in Pole Rumi (the Roman Bridge) in north Tehran where I was born in Dezashib and grew up in Evin but I went to high school close to where he was later raised. Although we had enjoyed the fruits of the same orchards in Moshar Garden, or ate the same ice-cream in two timeframes a few years apart, we could talk about these experiences as if we had been together in spirit! The only regret I yearn with melancholy for life is why I did not spend more quality time with Houman when I really could. Then again, whenever I face a social or scientific conundrum, I ask myself what would Houman do, and I simply follow his directives platonically. Houman remains among the very few exemplars I have known, who was harmoniously retrospective, introspective and prospective in his short, nonetheless, sweet and fruitful life.
Having been enlightened by Houman’s positive energy, I am confident of his liberated energy now spreading out in the Universe! Then again, knowing him rather well, however, I also trust his positive energy would overcome his random distributions and cluster now and again to hover over his special places on earth and across the four continents- over his childhood home in Shemiran, his parental residence in southern Australia, his boarding school and last residence in Connecticut, as well as vacationing over Alvand and Damavand Mountains with detours to Persepolis, and Pasargadae the resting place of the Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire in Shiraz of Iran.
A memorial to celebrate his life will be held for Houman at Maneeley's Banquet in South Windsor, CT on April 24, 3:30-5:00, with a social to follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Houman's name to his favorite charity,www.HFSC.org (Autism unit), or favorite presidential candidate, https://go.berniesanders.com/page/content/contribute/. In Houman’s memory, please review and share this and the essay on Bernie Sanders at Believe in Bernie and vote for Sanders
If I were to dare take the liberty of characterizing our beloved Houman’s approach to life concisely, I cannot resort to anything but the short famous poem by Sa’adi, the 13th century Persian Poet as follows:
All Humans are members of one framesince all, at first, from the same essence came.When by hard fortune a limb is oppressedthe other members lose their desired rest.If thou feel’st not for others’ miserya Human, therefore, is no name for thee.