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The first Taleghani lecture this past spring was entitled "Obama and Iran: The Battle of Hope vs. Fear."


Dr. Malakeh Taleghani

Above: Dr. Malakeh Taleghani.

The Dr. Malakeh Taleghani Graduate Endowment

in Iranian Studies

After marrying at age 17, Malakeh Taleghani dropped out of high school, which was not unusual in Iran in the 1940s. Four years and two children later, she tried to return to school (at the insistence of her husband). There was one problem: Married women were not allowed to go to high school. Taleghani's family convinced the principal to turn a blind eye, and so she continued her education, camouflaging the pregnancy of her third child in her senior year.

Finishing high school was an accomplishment for a girl. Even more of an accomplishment: earning a Ph.D. in Persian literature from Tehran University. (Taleghani was only the third woman in Iran to do so.) Through the years, Taleghani raised four children; was a high school teacher, a principal, a professor and a representative in the Iranian National Assembly; and ultimately served as deputy secretary of the Ministry of Education.

She passed away in 2010 in Tucson.

Above: In 1999, Taleghani put on the play "Kaveh Ahangar" from Shahnameh Ferdowsi. Karimi hopes to eventually publish the nine plays her mother wrote.

Taleghani's daughter Simin Karimi, a professor in the UA Department of Linguistics, and her siblings decided that the most fitting way to honor their mother would be to establish a fellowship, which is granted to students who study Iranian culture, including literature, linguistics, history, political science and architecture. Since the endowment was created with a gift of $15,000 last spring, it has already doubled thanks to generous contributions from the community.

"Education and Iranian studies was where my mother's heart was," said Karimi, adding that her mother believed that anyone could achieve academic success at the highest level, even within cultures where the role of women was restricted.

Above: Karimi (in white) with the first three recipients of the Dr. Malakeh Taleghani Endowment Graduate Fellowship -- Julie Ellison, Deniz Tat and Farrah Jafari.

The inaugural recipients of the fellowship illustrate the diversity of Iranian studies. Farrah Jafari, a student in Near Eastern studies, examines the issue of identity in the Iranian transgender community. Julie Marie Ellison, a student in Near Eastern studies, is researching the Iranian writer and activist Sepideh Dowlatshahi. And linguistics student Deniz Tat is studying Azari, a Turkish language spoken in northeastern Iran.

Karimi is also funding an annual Taleghani lecture to honor her mother's love of community events. Every year, Taleghani would write and produce a play in Persian based on a masterpiece of Iranian literature. She chose actors from members of the community, including professors and students.

"She was in love with it," said Karimi. "She served dinner. She wrote and directed the play. She chose the outfits, the music. This was the high point every year of her life. The day after the play she would tell me about her idea for next year."

The first Taleghani lecture this past spring was titled "Obama and Iran: The Battle of Hope vs. Fear."

For more information, contact Lori Harwood at 520-626-3846 • Editor