Celebrating decades of dedication to Armenian education

Houry Boyamian has been a centerpiece of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown, Massachusetts for the past 35 years. A strong advocate for Armenian education, Boyamian has supported the thriving  of the language and culture in the only Armenian day school in New England. After three and a half decades of service, she is retiring this June. Her role as principal will be filled by Garine Palandjian, Ph.D.

Houry Boyamian receiving her high school diploma from Principal Simon Vratsian, Nshan Palandjian Djermaran

Growing up in Beirut, Boyamian studied at Nshan Palandjian Djemaran, at which her father Karnig Panian was vice principal. “I remember very well how he interacted with the students…he was the kindest man, but he was also very firm,” she reminisced recently in a conversation with the Weekly. “He had high expectations for himself and for others. He had a lot of integrity, and he loved his students.” Boyamian noted that “he was a great influence on me,” and this influence is seen in her work. 

Houry Boyamian’s high school graduation from Nshan Palandjian Djemaran in Beirut. Boyamian’s father Karnig Panian is pictured third from the left in the first row and Principal Simon Vratsian is fifth from the left. Boyamian is fourth from the right in the second row.

However, Boyamian did not always intend to follow in her father’s footsteps. She studied pharmacy in college, graduating in 1970 from St. Joseph University in Lebanon, and worked for Harvard Community Health Plan after moving to the United States during the Lebanese Civil War in 1986. It was only after school board representatives approached her that she decided to pursue a career in education. She accepted the role at St. Stephen’s in 1988, received her masters in education in 1994 from UMass Boston and set on a lifelong path of service to the Armenian community in Watertown. 

Houry Boyamian’s 1994 graduation from UMass Boston with her masters in education

“I did this because Armenian education is so important for the perpetuation of our culture, heritage and language,” Boyamian remarked. 

This mission has motivated and guided Boyamian in her role as she encountered various challenges over time. In recent years, St. Stephen’s has flourished despite the teacher shortage, sharing space with sister organizations, and the COVID-19 pandemic. During that difficult year, Boyamian shared that “we had a very good health committee…we made everything possible for in-person education.” 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Additionally, the administration is cautious with spending in hopes of keeping tuition low for families. “We do not spare funds when it comes to education, to the students, but on the other hand we are very cautious…In the administration, we wear different hats.” Through this budget, St. Stephen’s can be a school “for every Armenian who desires to give to their children Armenian education.” 

After her retirement, Boyamian hopes that St. Stephen’s will work towards establishing a middle school, and one day, a high school. “Why not?” asked Boyamian. “We have many on the west coast; we should have one here on the east.” 

With these challenges and hopes in mind, St. Stephen’s will continue to thrive under the leadership of Garine Palandjian. Boyamian praises Palandjian: “She cares about everything Armenian, and I’m very pleased and very happy that a young woman has decided to come and serve Armenian education.” Boyamian wishes her “a lot of success and a bright future.” 

Palandjian will be working closely with a second generation of St. Stephen’s students. Boyamian shared that the passing down of Armenian education is her “biggest joy, when I see alumni students bringing their children to St. Stephen’s.” This year, for the first time, a child of an alumni will graduate. 

What keeps families coming back to St. Stephen’s? “I have noticed that those children who know their language, who know their history, they are more confident in life. They know where they came from,” said Boyamian.

Houry Boyamian pictured in the center with alumni at the 35th anniversary gala for St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School

As a 35-year career at St. Stephen’s comes to a close, Boyamian continues to put her students first. “I am so busy that I’m not thinking about my retirement,” she confesses. “I’m just getting ready for the closing of the school, the graduation ceremonies, and all of the events that take place in June.” With the year’s end quickly approaching, she anticipates missing the people most, though she plans to remain local and stay in touch. The students, teachers and parents have made her role at St. Stephen’s a rewarding one.   

“I have come to school every day with the happiness of doing something worthwhile. I never regretted one day for taking this many responsibilities, and I did it with real pleasure and fulfillment.

Alexandra O'Neil

Alexandra O'Neil

Alexandra O’Neil is a rising junior at Boston College majoring in Communications with minors in Journalism, English and Theatre. She is an arts contributor for Boston College's newspaper The Heights, and she has written for ECHO Magazine, an online music publication based in Boston and Los Angeles. Her work focuses on performing arts coverage as well as film, music and literary reviews, and she is passionate about telling stories bringing attention to people making a difference in their communities.


  1. Houry is the BEST! Any Armenian school would have benefited greatly from her wisdom, energy and caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.