Growing in a family of genocide survivors, he was largely influenced by the survival stories, and he wanted to make sure the world knew the Armenian story.
Vahé Baladouni devoted his life to teaching, research and writing. His academic interests did not stay within the boundaries of one discipline, reflecting the breadth of his intellect: accounting; history; philosophy; Armenian studies; poetry; and translation. “We saw questions where others saw only facts,” Baladouni reflected on his generation of scholars. For over 35 years, he was a full-time professor at the College of Business Administration at the University of New Orleans.
Vahé was born to genocide survivors Suren and Haigouhi Baladouni in 1925 in the city of Zagazig, Egypt—the country in which AGBU was founded and had a significant presence. After his father passed away, Vahé’s uncle Hmayeak Shems, a well known poet, took him under his wing, instilling in Vahé a love for writing and poetry. To ensure that her son received a proper education, his mother took a position of director of an AGBU supported school. These influences prepared Vahé well for the academic life.
In 1956, he came to the U.S on a scholarship to study accounting at Baldwin Wallace College and, in 1965, he received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Illinois. “He liked the university life, in which people could engage in ongoing discussions as they try to puzzle out what was meaningful in life and meaningful in the world,” his wife Billie Baladouni explains when describing Vahé’s fascination with philosophy and attachment to the academic world. It was in this environment of scholarly debates that she and Vahé met, became friends, later fell in love and married. They had a daughter, Janig Hokis, and a son, Vahan Armen.
Proud of his heritage, Vahé set an ambitious goal to assemble his uncle’s poems—many of which were scattered in various Armenian magazines and newspapers— into one publication. Hmayeak Shems: Selected Works was just one such anthologies of his uncle’s work. He also took every opportunity to uncover and publicize facts about his Armenian compatriots. “Growing in a family of genocide survivors, he was largely influenced by the survival stories, and he wanted to make sure the world knows the Armenian story,” says Billie. Another ambitious undertaking was his book titled Armenian Merchants of the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries: English East India Company Sources, for which he had to learn old English to study the original accounting records housed at the British Library.
Beyond the academic world, Vahé was a caring husband and father, who enjoyed classical Armenian music and exposed his family to it. “He was a very loving and generous person who tried to treat each person in a very personal way,” Billie says.
After he passed away in 2017, his family founded the AGBU Vahé Baladouni Memorial Endowment to honor his life and contribution to academia. This endowment will support students pursuing graduate degrees in Armenian Studies or a related field. “Perhaps one of the scholarship recipients will join him in his vision to share the Armenian story,” says Billie.