Dr. Arsine Oshagan, 80, of Radnor, an educator and prominent force in the Philadelphia Armenian community who was known for her contributions at the local, national, and international level, died Thursday, April 28, of cancer at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
She dedicated her life to enhancing the educational and cultural heritage of Armenians around the globe, her family said, and she directed academic programs at Armenian schools in the United States and in Australia.
For the last 22 years, she was a business consultant who rose to become vice president at Gap International, a global management consultant firm in Springfield, Delaware County.
“She was a woman of many talents and of a huge heart,” said her sister, Jackie Rustigian. “She had a talent to serve others.”
Dr. Oshagan, who held a Ph.D. in mathematics, moved to the Philadelphia area from Connecticut in 1977 to become vice principal for academic affairs at Armenian Sisters Academy, a Christian Armenian day school, in Radnor.
“She had a very brilliant mind,” said her sister. “And she was an ardent supporter of international causes, mostly for children. She had a global view of the needs in the world, for health, education, and the betterment of the human condition.”
After four years with the school, she became a lecturer at Cabrini and Neumann Universities and Rosemont College in the early 1980s. Then in 1984, she was recruited to become principal of the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco.
In 1988, she headed the mathematics faculty at the St. Hilary School in Tiburon, Calif., until 1992, when she became principal of an Armenian school in Sydney, Australia.
She and her husband lived there for six years before returning to Radnor.
After joining Gap International in 2000, Dr. Oshagan was promoted to vice president, specializing in research and development, and promoting business and individual transformation.
She retired in January due to her illness, her sister said.
Dr. Oshagan was born Arsine Rustigian on April 1, 1942, in Hartford, Conn., to Jacob and Stella Sachaklian Rustigian. She was the second of three children, with an older brother and a younger sister.
The family lived in a private house on the Trinity College campus.
Her father, born in eastern Turkey to an Armenian family, worked for United Aircraft, an airplane manufacturer.
Her mother, born in Boston to an Armenian immigrant family, had a master’s degree in art, working an administrative job at Trinity but eventually as an artist and interior decorator.
“We were raised on a college campus with a New England spirit and values about education and strong family ties,” Rustigian, her sister, said.
Of the three siblings, Rustigian said, Dr. Oshagan “was the more studious, calmer, and quieter person who observed first before she spoke.”
In Hartford, she was Sunday school director of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church.
She graduated in 1960 from the Loomis Chaffee School, a selective, private high school, and later graduated with honors from Mount Holyoke College, including Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Mu Epsilon (for mathematics).
She earned a master’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
While in graduate school, she took a year off to study the Armenian language at an Armenian school in Beirut, Lebanon.
While there in 1967, however, the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War broke out, and she had to be evacuated to Cyprus, Rustigian said.
In 1978, she married the Armenian poet, writer, and literary critic Vahé Oshagan, whose fluency in the Armenian language helped his wife also become fluent.
For the last 20 years, Dr. Oshagan taught Armenian to adults in the Philadelphia region who wanted to connect to their heritage and culture.
She served on the board of trustees of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, was involved with the Armenian Prelacy National Representatives Assembly (NRA), and sang in the church choir.
Rustigian said her sister also was an accomplished musician who played both the piano and violin growing up.
Years later, she taught herself to play the organ and was the substitute organist at St. Gregory’s Armenian Episcopal Church.
In addition to her sister, Dr. Oshagan is survived by two stepsons, Hayg Oshagan and Ara Oshagan; a brother; and many nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Her husband died in 2000, after they had been married for 22 years.
Services will be at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11, at St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, 8701 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia 19128.
Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. Burial will take place at Calvary Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, 8701 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19128, or, through this link to the Armenian Sisters Academy, 440 Upper Gulph Road, Radnor, Pa. 19087.