Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Remembering Esteemed Bibliographer Eddie Yeghiayan

Shatin, Hong Kong --  An email sent Saturday 12 May 2018 (received the next day here) from his nephew Armen informed me that my close friend and colleague at University of California, Irvine, Libraries, the incomparable bibliographer Eddie Yeghiayan, had passed away that morning, in his sleep.

I am currently on a Fulbright in Hong Kong and this news made me too sad for words.  Now, after a few days, I am beginning to put some words in print.

He was 78 when he left us, born in Ethiopia of Armenian heritage, he felt free after his retirement to devote himself to compiling a massive, multilingual compendium on the Armenian genocide, published in fact by the Vatican press.  It was his ultimate triumph after a career at UC Irvine devoted to being a really dedicated librarian who was a philosophy bibliographer.

His triumph at the libraries there was the creation of the critical theory archive and its massive collection of bibliographies about the top cultural theorists of the time, who came to Irvine to lecture.  He even became a media sensation, appearing in Derrida, where he was filmed talking about the French critical theorist's archive at UC Irvine.  (It was the only time I spoke to Derrida, where I managed to utter "enchanté", as the regular visiting UC Irvine professor sat in the audience for an Irvine screening.)  The dialog is reprinted in a spinoff book, Derrida: Screenplay and Essays on the Film by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman (Manchester University Press, which records Eddie saying: "This is the entire Derrida archive beginning there almost to the end, there's about 100 boxes.  We see Derrida pacing through the archive...

Speaking once with Eddie about a summer in the late 1960's I spent living in Berkeley with friends from Hong Kong, I showed him a photo of the apartment complex. He quickly pointed out that he had lived there before, in the same complex, when he pursued his undergraduate studies some years  earlier.  So it was inevitable that we took a trip to Berkeley together to relive old times.

He was my regular companion at Chinese eateries, even as I at time wrote short blurbs for the OC Weekly.  And we would also go together to many of the Vietnamese International Film Festivals that started at UC Irvine and continued in Orange County, and which I covered for my radio program, Subversity Show, and later its podcasts, as well as review for the OC Weekly.

Eddie, who was short but not slim, had an uncomfortable experience eating at Irvine's Taiwanese eatery modeled after a school classroom, Class 302 on Culver Drive.  The furniture seemed more appropriate for elementary school so it was not a huge success our eating there.

Photo copyright © 2015 Daniel C. Tsang
My happiest memory of him was when he attended after his retirement the graduation party of my  student assistant, Tatevik.  She also was of Armenian heritage.  I really love this photo of him (right).

He also attended a critical theory conference, coming back on campus -- we stayed in hotels in Irvine so he could conveniently attend.  At the event, it was astonishing, but totally understandable, to see
Chancellors Professor Gabbie Schwab kneeling in front of Eddie, in a public tribute to all his contributions to the critical theory discipline.

I wrote about a 2015 critical theory event (that Eddie didn't attend) at UC Irvine Libraries  in my blog post.  Here's some excerpts:

During the exhibits opening event 9 April 2015, in the Q&A session after the opening talk by UCI Humanities Dean Georges Van Den Abbeele, I related the anecdote of the New York Times calling Eddie up to ask if the newspaper could use a low-resolution photo of Judith Butler that Eddie had taken and posted online next to his bibliography on Butler.  Eddie - the unasuming and generous soul he was - offered to give it to the paper for free. To laughter, I said he could have asked for $1,000.   "He didn't want any money," I added. The photo was subsequently published in the 27 February 1999 edition of the NY Times, p. B11 to acccompany a story on "Attacks on Scholars Include a Barbed Contest With 'Prizes' " by Dinitia Smith that began on page B9.   This past Sunday Eddie recalled the New York Times had offered him $100 which he declined.  The photo is missing from the online version but Eddie is credited.

UCI Chancellor's Prof. (in Comparative Literature) Gabriele Schwab then spoke up thanking Eddie for his "most amazing bibliographies." UCI Humanities Dean Van Den Abbeele from the podium then said he "knew that" and had "consulted" Eddie's Lyotard bibliography "many, many times" and that "it is an amazing piece of work."  He later told me that while French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard had given him (the Dean) some pamphlets of his (Lyotard's) writings, Eddie's bibliography listed every one of them. 

At a time when library administrators at many places are urging librarians to collaborate with faculty more, Eddie stands as an exemplary example of the benefits of producing scholarly work that brings recognition to bibliographers and other librarians. 

Photo courtesy Eddie Yeghiayan
At my encouragement, Eddie penned his own tribute to Roger Berry, who headed Special Collections, and his favorite boss.   I also like this photo since it shows Eddie with his characteristic smile behind Roger Berry.

To me, no one could replace Eddie, nor could the University find a comparable replacement.  He was one of a kind.

Daniel C. Tsang


My past colleague Julia Gelfand and I sent out this email 15 May 2018 about Eddie to our colleagues:

Photo copyright © May 2015 Daniel C. Tsang

The family of Eddie Yeghiayan, former Librarian for Philosophy, French, Italian and English, and founding librarian for Critical Theory at UCI announced his passing on May 12.  Eddie retired in 2002 after devoting his entire professional career to the UCI Libraries.  He received his PhD in Philosophy from UCI in 1974 under the direction of the late Professor Abe Meldon, studying Hume’s theory of moral sentiments.  He went on to support and document the founding of the program in Critical Theory at UCI by creating extensive bibliographies of all the distinguished faculty, critics and scholars who shaped and defined that internationally acclaimed program.  A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University where he also taught in the Philosophy Department, he received his MSLS from Berkeley in 1977 and returned to UCI that year to be the Humanities Bibliographer working under Marion Buzzard and with Roger Berry, Head of Special Collections, where the Critical Theory Archive was established.   Born in Ethiopia, Eddie came alone to the US as a young teenager joining his older brothers who were already working as an engineer and lawyer in the US.   

Eddie devoted his retirement to compiling an extensive bibliography of the Armenian Genocide, published in 2012.  Already online as a searchable database via the web site of the Glendale-based Center for Armenian Remembrance, the 1126 page bibliography was released in print by Vatican Publishing House.  In April 2015, the Libreria Editrice Vaticana issued  Eddie’s volume in Italian.  In Spring 2015 the UCI Libraries held an exhibit “Through Discerning Eyes: Origins and Impact of Critical Theory at UCI,” where the Welleck Lecture series was well documented with Eddie’s extensive bibliographies of the giants of the field and for which he is much recognized and highly cited.  He also appeared in a short video clip from Derrida directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman. 

Eddie is remembered as a very generous and engaging colleague, a terrific storyteller, who mentored many librarians and scholars in the scholarship of language and literature.  He loved words, film, international cuisines, was fluent in many languages and had a very well informed worldly view.  He leaves a brother, 4 nieces and nephews, several great nieces and nephews, and a large extended family around the world.   Information about services and memorials are forthcoming.

Julia Gelfand & Dan Tsang

1 comment:

UCEAL said...

Did not know you and Eddie lived in the same room at Berkeley, but in different times. That' amazing! I will miss Eddie very much! I will always remember the time he enjoyed meals with us, shared lots of stories about the library, offered me with valuable advice on writing and living,and much more. May Eddie rest in peace!