La Grande, Oregon
Dr. Ali Reza Shapur Shahbazi, 64, of La Grande died July 15 in Walla Walla after a long battle with stomach cancer.
A memorial service will be conducted at Eastern Oregon University Sunday at 3 p.m. in McKenzie Theatre. A reception will follow in the lobby. All are welcome.
The seventh child of Ebrahim and Malihe Shahbazi, he was born Sept. 4, 1942, in Shiraz, Iran.
In 1960, as Iran’s highest-ranking geography student, he was awarded an academic scholarship to the University of London, where he earned a master’s degree and doctorate in archeology. He later completed his post-doctorate degree in Iranian historiography from Georg August University in Goettingen, Germany.
Dr. Shahbazi founded the Institute of Achemenid Research at Persepolis, Persia’s ancient ceremonial capital, and served as its director from 1973 until the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
As one of Iran’s most prominent intellectuals, he lived in exile in Germany and the United States after the upheaval of the revolution. It brought him great pride and joy to eventually reopen the institute and resume his scholarly and professional career in Iran, in which he remained very active until his death.
He taught at the universities of Shiraz, Tehran, Goettingen, Harvard, Columbia and Eastern Oregon, and was one of the world’s foremost authorities in several areas of pre-Islamic Iranian history, language and culture. He is the author of 16 books and 180 articles and publications, and received numerous international honors for his scholarly contributions.
He won the national Book of the Year Award for his first major work, a biography of Cyrus the Great, when he was still in his 20s. Most recently, he was the first recipient of the North American Middle East Studies Association Houshang Pourshariati Award in Iranian Studies, “for his role as one of the few Iranians who have single-handedly rewritten Iranian history.” He was admired and loved by his students, and he received EOU’s Distinguished Teaching Faculty Award in 2005.
He shed light on many complex historical questions, including the dates of Persia’s epic poet Ferdowsi, and of Zoroaster, the founder of the world’s first monotheistic religion. He was cherished by the Zoroastrian community throughout the world for his contributions and dedication to the study of their religion.
He was also an esteemed writer and editor for Encyclopedia Iranica for three decades.
His historical studies and discoveries ranged from the fourth century BC to the 10th century CE. However, his knowledge was not limited to Iran and the Middle East. He was an expert in history, archeology, geography, religion, art, politics and literature.
Dr. Shahbazi was tireless in sharing his knowledge and helping the world understand different angles and perspectives of history, culture and current events. He was highly respected by the international community in numerous fields, and was sought out and consulted regularly by scholars, as well as such organizations as the United Nations, UNESCO, National Geographic, BBC and the Discovery Channel.
In 1976 he married Theresa Louise Christensen. Their daughter, Rudabeh Alana — named after the great Persian heroine — was born in Germany in 1982. This marriage ended in 1988. He married Farideh Karimi Alvijeh in 1994.
He gave selflessly and devoted all his energies to the three greatest loves of his life — his family, his country and his scholarly work. Aside from his brilliance, he was known for his determination, high ethical standards, lively sense of humor, compassion and legendary generosity. He was a true gentleman.
At the time of his death he was completing a monumental book on the Sassanian dynasty, which will be published posthumously.
He is survived by his daughter, Rudabeh; his wife, Farideh; 13 siblings; and numerous family members in Iran. His parents and sister, Maryam, preceded him in death.
In recognition of his role as an Iranian national treasure, he will be buried at the tomb of the 14th century mystic poet Hafiz in Shiraz, an honor reserved for the most beloved literary figures of Iran.
The Observer Online, Obituaries for the week ending July 22, 2006 – Published: July 27, 2006