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Bijan Amini grew up in Iran. His parents were not Muslim, but were members of an outlawed religion. He wanted to leave Iran to study, and contacted the principal of a school in Tehran who recommended that he come to WWC. He had a difficult time with the bureaucratic process, but finally was helped by a friend of his mother. He came to WWC in November, after school had begun, with all of his belongings in one suitcase. He worked with Sam DeVries in the physical plant and also worked on landscaping. He stayed on campus through most breaks and vacations.He was never able to return to Iran because he would have had to serve in the army there. His parents left Iran in the mid-1960's and died soon afterward, though he has a brother in England. Bijan went on to the University of Southwestern Louisiana after his stay at Warren Wilson College. He received a BS from there in chemistry. He then went on to earn an MS from North Dakota State University and a PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Kansas. His wife, Mary, works for Kraft (a subsidiary of Philip Morris Co.) and supervises about 100 workers who do ingredient analysis, quality control, new product testing, etc. Their daughter is a student (2002) at Emory University. When they visited campus in October, 2001, Nancy Ruppert took them on a campus tour where they talked for a while with Vickie Collins and Dean Kahl. Also, Nancy introduced them to Ernst Laursen because Bijan knew his parents.
He mentioned that of the approximately 250 students on campus at that time, probably 50 were from abroad. After Bijan finished high school, his brother, 9 years older and in England, had promised to find a college for Bijan in England. While waiting for that to happen, Bijan heard about WWC where students worked for tuition and decided to inquire. WWC said only students from a certain high school in Tehran would be accepted and only with a letter from that principal. Bijan had no connection there but walked there in middle of the summer vacation and fortunately found an assistant prinicipal who helped him secure the letter. WWC accepted him, but it took him a long time to get visas, etc. before he could board a ship in LeHavre to sail to NY (big expense for his parents). Finally arriving in NY, he told the dockworkers he needed to get to Swannanoa (not knowing even that it was in NC), which caused another delay before someone helped him find a bus to Asheville. He arrived on campus 6 weeks after the semester started and told that WWC assumed he was not coming, having not heard from him. Despite the mixup, all worked out, and he feels fortunate to have begun finally.
He should have graduated in 1959 but needed an extra semester to catch up and is the class of 60, though feels closer to 59ers.
He never has returned to Iran but does not regret that, as the religious sect of his family was persecuted, and he deplores the politics in his home country now. His parents also moved to England near his brother, and he was able to see them there until they passed away.
Bijan retired from Dupont when Mary was offered a promotion at Kraft Foods to Chicago several years ago and after their daughter finished middle school. Mary retired at least two years ago which is when they retired to Aiken. Bijan was in R&D at first, then administration, and then retired from Dupont from another R&D post, nearly always charged with streamlining production. Mary received the PhD from Rutgers and remained on their faculty for 13 years (and they lived in the Cherry Hill area, so Bijan commuted to Wilmington) before General Foods (which then became Kraft Foods) recruited her to a post in packaging, her specialty. She is pleased she had opportunities to work in both academia and industry. She began in Chicago and when Lindsay finished middle school, Bijan took early retirement, and they moved to the Chicago area.
Both Bijan and Mary had significant domestic and global travel as a part of their responsibilities, and Bijan did not enjoy that aspect, while Mary did. Now, neither miss their jobs and do not consult. Bijan gave up tennis not long ago and enjoys building wooden model sailing vessels (meticulous work, beautiful woods used in actual ships), and Mary plays tennis regularly. Both also garden. They originally thought of retiring to Charlottesville, but a persuasive development salesman at one of the "best places to retire" seminars gave them information on Aiken. After a visiting and investigating, they changed direction and are very happy and live in a community of mainly retired professionals. Mary, Presbyterian by birth, grew up in Kansas and is an only child and loved math and analytical subjects. Bijan's roommate at WWC, Frederic Mandel '59, who also followed him to Kansas, introduced Mary to Bijan. Despite each having other steady romances, they were married several months after they met.
He arranged to visit the Aminis again this day, and they invited him to their complex's clubhouse for lunch. We had another delightful relaxing conversation. Bijan confirmed his wish to create a scholarship in December 2010 when he must withdraw IRA funds. His thank-you follow up included information on the advantages 70.5 year-olds have through this year. He promised to keep abreast of any extensions thereto. Bijan and Mary will attend Homecoming 09. Bijan feels closer to that class, mainly with those students. They are particularly eager to see Fred Mandel. The last time they were to meet 9/11/01 happened and mid-flight, they each were re-directed. Fred's present wife is Russian, and they live with a daughter now in Houston. Bijan was offered a full retirement deal when he left Dupont, and he took it, retiring completely. He has done well with investments. About 2.5 years ago, he pulled out everything from the market and bought CDs and bonds for his 401k, prescient of the coming recession, so nothing has suffered in his principle.
Bijan no longer plays much tennis but he walks 3 miles/day. Mary, who plays tennis daily, loves to cook and experiments often with unusual recipes. She was intrigued with the Swannanoa Culinary School here in July and will give it thought another year. Their daughter, Lindsay, whom I learned has had severe asthma and sinusitis problems particularly in this last year in D.C., was accepted into the U Kansas' PhD program for art history, specializing in 19th century French. They are thrilled (and hope some of her congestion is relieved too), as they met there when Mary did her undergrad and Bijan, his PhD there too. (Lindsay was also accepted at PSU's art history too but liked Kansas' program better.) They are very close to Lindsay and talk sometimes several times a day with her. She curated an exhibit for her master's degree work while at GWU this past year. This was a first at the school and as a result of Lindsay's success, the faculty decided to incorporate the requirement into the program.