Mr. Bizhan Yahyazadeh, NU 1980, Oral History Interview
December 16, 2014
Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University
Interviewed by Sarah Yahm
Transcribed by Sarah Yahm and C.T. Haywood, NU '12, December 22, 2014
SY: Okay. So I am recording. So could you actually pronounce your full name forthe interview.
BY: Sure. Bizhan Yahyazadeh
SY: Bizhan Yahyazadeh
SY: Okay. Excellent. So we're actually here at the Norwich studio at theSullivan Center. What is today's date?
BY: Today is December 16th
SY: Today is December 16th [laughter] and here we are conducting our oralhistory interview. Let's start with where you were born and when you were born
BY: I was born in Iran. The city's name is Abadan, and June 27 1954.
SY: And so how did you end up in the Imperial Navy?
BY: Well after graduating from high school, back then, and I believe it's stilltoday, it's the law. If you don't go to college you had to join the services - army or navy or marines. And since I wasn't among the lucky one to go to college, and the college is not because I couldn't afford to go to college, in Iran college you have to pass the entry exam and the entry exam is very, very, very hard. At the time I took the exam 2 million high school student took that exam and they were looking for 100,000 or something that number. I don't exactly remember the number. But it is, it's very, very hard to get into college. And since I wasn't able to get into college I had to serve the army, and I did serve the army for a couple years. And after that I really was looking for adventure, I didn't want to just be a clerk somewhere. And I saw the famous advertising 'navy is not a job, is adventure' so I decided to join the navy. And after passing the exam, written and physical, I got in navy, Iranian navy, as we know it back then Imperial Iranian Navy. And after completing some English language training Iranian Navy sent us to United States. Of course Navy at that time did not send student, navy officers, that's what we were supposed to be, to, to United States only. It was France and Italy and England, all across the world. And, ah, I, they send me to Citadel, Charleston South Carolina, for some additional English and military training. And because I was supposed to go to Jacksonville University, Jacksonville University had and still had ROTC program. Unfortunately Jacksonville University could only take 10 students, and again I wasn't able to go to Jacksonville University, and the Iranian navy found Norwich University which at that time, I believe, Norwich was facing serious financial problem back in mid, mid-70's. So I arrived on campus on very cold, [inaudible] late August and I wasn't very impressed with Norwich because I was born and raised in city as big and as dirty as New York City, and when I came to Northfield I was actually dying. So we had a week so I left. I went to Chicago to see my cousin. I came back, I guess we started the Rook Week. This is how I end up being at Norwich.
SY: What was it like being a rook here? How was Norwich military trainingdifferent than Iranian military training?
BY: Ah, well if you allow me let me start from Iranian military training, thenget back to American military training, then Norwich military training because these are all 3 different standards. The army training I received, it was very disciplined, very harsh. It was the training to get you ready for being a soldier. Even though I was going to serve army only for 2 years, it wasn't like a lifetime experience. It was very rigid, very harsh, and there was no, ah, second standard whatsoever. The training was, if I remember correctly, maybe four to five months.
SY: There's a weird beep happening. Ah the battery is low. Hold on one second.
[Recorder is turned off to change battery.]
SY: And we're going again. So could you explain that? There was mandatoryservice for 2 years.
BY: For 2 years. Every high school student had to serve 2 years. If you went tocollege you served 2 years after you graduated from the college. For without serving the military you wouldn't, you couldn't find a job or work for anybody. It was a law and I still believe today it is the same scenario as well. Anyway I joined the army for two years because it was mandatory but again the training was very harsh, the military, especially the army. Again I am not expert in international military, but the army is usually the hardest part of the service in any country because the army is the mother of the services. Anyway, I received the training and I served, ah, completed my two years and then I decided to join the navy which was voluntary by the way, to be naval officer. Then, ah, after the training we came to United States and we were in Citadel. And Iranian Navy was the training, of course the training we received it was just a basic training in English and very, very little military. It wasn't really hard, and again navy training was not as harsh as Iranian army military. Then when we arrived to Citadel, Citadel is as you know it's the military school. Of course it's not federal military school, it's state funded but it's army school and it's very hard. Even today when I compare Norwich University's training, the Rook system, and the Citadel it's, it's quite a different. Unfortunately some people might call it harsh harassment or uh, undefined training. I don't believe that. It's a training, and military training is unique training. It gets you ready to be a soldier, or not just a soldier, to grab the rifle and go in the war and fight. The system is designed to build a new person who can follow the order or be a leader in future. So again it's a unique lifestyle and of course that kind of lifestyle is not for everybody, you have to have the understanding of that lifestyle. So Norwich's training, it is not, even though some people might call it really harsh, but it's not as hard as other military's training.
SY: Was that how you felt about it when you were, you know, a kid arriving atthe Citadel or were you surprised?
BY: I wasn't surprised because the military training I received from Iranianarmy was much, much, much harsher and I should say superior than Citadel. But when I came to Norwich I was, I had a hard time. Why? Because a) I was, ah, maybe couple years or maybe 3 years older than my classmate. Also I received, ah, much higher military training and having a corporal who was still couple years younger than me stick his face and yell at me because I had all those experience, I received all that training and then go through it, it was much harsher than, than average normal training. So--
SY: That makes sense. And that's another question. How did you feel like you fitin with the other students at Norwich? Did you feel cultural differences? Did you feel accepted?
Cultural differences. We were young and myself because I was among the firstgroup of Iranian arrived on campus. Ah, we were young and even though we had to learn a lot of cultural issue but we adopted the lifestyle and, and it was okay, it was okay. As a matter of fact we had fun but I don't think at that time, again this is 1976, having 53 foreign student in small town of Northfield again, just, just remember this was not Los Angeles this was not New York City or Boston. For, for, folks in Northfield and, and for that matter some of, most of Norwich's students, we were foreigners. And, and, sometimes foreigner is described as, uh, people or object that they are not same as you are. They expected for example we have five eyes, not two. We weren't, we were treated substandard because they didn't know, and most people didn't even know where Iran was. And, and when you said Iran, they didn't understand where Middle East was. So it was, uh, cultural shocks to us to see how uninformed people were. Not just people at Norwich, not our classmate, some of the townies. And, and, and we had some issues to prove ourselves, who we were. For example, I had a faculty member used to say, "You make much more money than I do, therefore you have to work three times harder to earn the grade." Although that wasn't true, we weren't paid that much. But again we were, we were to be officer in Iranian Navy. We received salary and, and the salary back then was about $700. And that $700 created a lot of problem because we were young, we were unexperienced, financially unexperienced, and, and we spend money foolishly. And, and people saw that. And they thought, ah, I remember I used to tell my friend because as you know Iran back then and still today produce oil and sell oil. And people thought every night we used to go around gas station and, and cash in all the money the gas station made and we spend it. That wasn't the truth [laughter]. And we faced a lot challenges and a lot of, uh, negative issue, but again as the time went by and we found friends and became easier. But the first couple of years we really faced really a lot of challenges.
SY: Do you remember any particular incidents that stick out?
BY: Uh, yeah. Again, back then because we were receiving salary from the navy,and some people they had their family in Iran, they had money, they send them money, they bought cars. And back then jazzy cars, like Camaros, Trans Ams, was, was the, the favorite vehicle of the day. And again back then Trans Am was, I don't know, around $7,000 dollar or less. And $7,000 dollar in Iran wasn't that a lot of money anyway, so they bought those cars. I didn't have any because I couldn't afford it, but some of my friend did and they used to park it in the parking lot. Ah, the windshield got broken, the tire got slashed, and the body got scratched. So again this is, you know childish stuff and, and does happen, so
SY: So did people say things to you, were there slurs?
BY: Oh yeah, they, they, used a lot of, ah, racial comment, and as we know theyexist today. And they used to call us 'camel jockey.' And believe it or not, Iran it's not part of the world that is all desert. Again, I don't have any, anything against anybody, but the desert usually come from the Arabic country. Sand desert, okay? Although Iran's climate is, is almost the same as United States. They have the northern part of Iran, it's just like here, Northeast, we have the snow, rain, on and on. And we have south part of Iran, which is like Texas, Texas here. Arizona has a lot of desert. So although the camel is not the, the animal of the day, but I, I never, never seen a live camel in my life. The first camel I saw it was in United States in Barre, Auditorium and they had a bunch of animals there. So and other racial comment. That was again, uh good thing, we were young and unexperienced and we didn't take it to heart. But, but it was still hurting and we tried to just, just move on and, and get along because we believed in to gain friends rather enemy. But yeah it was harsh, yes, it was harsh.
SY: and the irony is that you were from a much more cosmopolitan place than themajority of people who came from right around Northfield! [laughter]
BY: That's right, that's right, and I, I need to add in and, and even today, yousay Iran, back then people didn't know what Iran was, where Iran was and, and what kind of luxury we had. Although because of oil. And the lifestyle goes back to, to late 40s and early 50s where British they were in Iran, of course taking the oil out of Iran, and after that United States was involved. So what I want to say the lifestyle was really high, it was European lifestyle. For example, ah, when we came here, blue jeans was the clothing that you put on when you want to work in the garden, okay? When we went out, still today you dressed up, you put suits on, the ladies was dressed up, you know, in really in high fashion style. Again we had to learn quickly how to dress and again when I came to the United States I was in Charleston, I went to San Diego, and the lifestyle was much, much different than Northfield. And, and this is, by the way today, I love Vermont, I love Northfield, and I would not trade it for the whole world but, but the lifestyle here usually we are ten years behind the United States. And when you, when you're comparing that with the European lifestyle the United States is behind the whole Europe. So I have twenty years gap here I had to get used to. [laughter]
SY: Yeah exactly that makes a lot of sense. Were you homesick when you were here?
BY: Of course
SY: What did you miss?
BY: Uh I miss my family. And again, even though we had a lot of fun, it was alot of places to go entertaining, we could entertain ourselves awhile, but family, it's very important. At this I should say because I moved out of Iran 40 years ago. Even though I go for a visit every couple, three years, but it's not same people, they are not same, it's not same country. But, but family was, is very important, we're very close. For example I used to see all my cousins at least once a month or so. And, and missing, leaving home away from my mom and my sisters and our family was kind of harsh. And I came to United States I believe it was June of 1976. The first opportunity I had, which was Christmas break here, I went home for a visit. So yeah it was harsh, we were homesick. Again, I was, I believe I was 20/21 years old but yeah it was an issue for me.
SY: Did you bring anything back with you? Like food that would remind you ofhome? What did you bring with you?
BY: What we usually brought back we couldn't find here. It wasn't you know, ah,what I can't remember, for example pistachio nuts. Today you can find a lot of pistachio in the United States. You go to Costco or local grocery store and you can find it, but back then it was really hard to find pistachio and, and some Iranian specialty candies. And that was it. And clothing, by the way, because still today I cannot find, I cannot shop in Vermont at all. So I usually go to Boston area. Again, this not to say, the high style clothing expectations I have
SY: I'm a New Yorker, so I know what you're talking about
BY: Exactly, exactly! I can, and clothing. For example, suits. We used to, stilltoday I guess, you have the tailor make your suit. They measure you. You don't go to places that they have suit ready and you put it on, I don't know your size. So a lot of clothing and some food we brought back with us.
SY: So I was in, I was in Loring Hart's papers yesterday reading about this timeperiod and it seemed like there were some conflicts about pork in the dining room?
BY: Yes. Ah. The Muslim religion, it's like kosher, same thing, does not approveof pork, eating pork and ham and pig's products. So in the beginning it was harsh. But again, we were, we didn't really adhere, we didn't practice Muslim religion. We were born in, in, ah, Muslim families and we were told it was prohibited, but we didn't know why okay? Still today. I guess the reason is back then they fed the pigs really garbage, stuff that they want to throw away. But today it's not the same thing, it's not the same thing. But that was an issue but again [slaps legs] we got over it and we ate whatever was served.
SY: Yeah I mean you guys were really secular.
BY: Yeah, sure
SY: And then it also sounds like there was a guy Commander Irumi?
SY: And was he sort of a cultural intermediary? I was trying to figure out whohe was
BY: Ah, he was naval officer who was the liaison officer to take care of allkinds of issue between Iranian Navy and Norwich University and try to be responsible for the naval students that they were here. Worked through grades to financial issue. He was, you know, liaison officer.
SY: Yeah, okay, because it sounded like he was trying to actually to get thecafeteria to serve non-pork products for the Iranian students.
BY: Yes of course, again because we were asking, we didn't want to eat pork andhe was trying to see if there was any solution, if there was any way that Norwich could serve something else for the Iranian student. Of course again back then it was financially difficult to do, and it didn't work out. But he was our voice, he was trying to, to bring up the interest of the cadets, Iranian naval cadets, and work that through. Unfortunately it didn't work and again, it wasn't like today you go to the dining room, you have so many options, you have so many choices, but again, it was what it was.
SY: Yeah it was a different time. So okay, so let's start to shift towards--Ohalso I saw that there was this trip from Norwich in 1977 to New York for a birthday party, for the Shah?
BY: No it was not birthday party. Ah 1977, Shah and his wife were planning tocome to United States for a visit. And they were a lot of, both United States and Iranian government knew that they would be a lot of demonstration, anti-Shah's group. Ah, so they wanted, they want to make sure Shah had enough support, that in New--actually it wasn't in New York, it was Washington, D.C. We went for another trip to New York but that was when his wife Farah came to New York. Anyway, they want to make sure Shah had enough support. Of course at that time, uh, the only people they could really control and bring, they were military personnel. So we went to Washington, to perhaps welcome Shah as his helicopter was flying over White House. It was right front of White House and again it was a lot of demonstrators, not only people in United States they came all the way from across the world, Europe. Ah, so it, it very quickly it got out of hand and it was fight, huge physical fight between pro-Shahs, which we were, and anti-Shah's group. And, and it, it got out of hand and again that was the time they want to prove we were working, we were dealing with democracy and it was okay to live in democratic world. But at that time I don't know, it was some sort, that was start of ah, Shah's, end of Shah's regime, because demonstration as such was not allowed in Iran or anywhere else. But again I don't want to make this my comment, my editorial comment as a political. But I'm sure there was some reason for that which, ah, they wanted the whole world see what was going and again it was Shah start losing Western world support at that time. Again that's why we were there to support Shah. It got really fight between both group anti and pro-Shah's group.
SY: Did you pulled into a fight?
BY: Uh, I did, I did, because they were another group, civilian group, that theywere United States they were pro-Shah's and indirectly they were told "don't worry about protection because the, the military personnel, Iranian military personnel would support you." And then nobody told us we were supposed to policing the area, okay? And when we got there the anti-Iranian, anti-Iranian anti-government they had all these kind of weapons such as baseball bats and, uh, stick of wood that they attacked us. And it's really hard to, to defend yourself or defend somebody else while they have, you know, baseball bat in their hand. So it was ugly, it wasn't very happy days. So, that was -
SY: Yeah was it a break from Norwich? This was just you just went down to D.C.and suddenly were kind of thrown in the midst of a battle?
BY: Yes, but I believe it was during one of the breaks, like spring break or, orChristmas break. It was, it was during the fall or spring. The school wasn't in session. We were there for very short time. We were there for a couple of days. It wasn't that long. It was, I believe it was a weekend even. So they flew us out of Burlington for a couple days and we came back. That was Washington, D.C. That was 1977.
SY: And were you in communication with your parents and family at the time?
BY: Sure. Sure
SY: Yeah and so what was, what were your feelings, what were your family'sfeelings about the political turmoil that was happening?
BY: Uh we did not. We did not talk about political issues, especially with ourfamilies. And, and it is like, it is still today. Those are confidential issues. Of course in, when you were in military in Iran, you were pro-Shahs and that that was supposed to be. And you didn't, still not today military personnel even if they have negative feeling about how the government works they usually don't talk about it, okay? They keep it to themselves. Ah. That's what, that's what we did. So we didn't talk about on the phone or, or in written communication. I didn't anyway, I, I know that for sure. We didn't talk about all that issues, because again we weren't supposed to. This is the, ah, brotherhood that you have in military even though some of us at that time we were unhappy with a lot of things, but we didn't talk about it. It was, you weren't supposed to talk anti-government.
SY: So then, so you were at Norwich when the Revolution happened, during theoverthrow of the Shah?
SY: So, do you remember where you were when you found out?
BY: I don't exactly remember where we were, where I was. But it was expected. Asmatter of fact if I am, if I remember correctly, I was in Iran during the Revolution and it was one of the vacations and I was in Iran when Shah left. And my flight was the day after, come to United States, of course, was the day after Shah left Iran. And the same day or the day after they close all the airports. So yes, I made it. And, ah, Khomeini came to Iran a few days after that. I was in United States when Khomeini went from France to Tehran to Iran. I was here and that was, I don't know, was one of the saddest day in Iranian history.
SY: Yeah, do you remember talking about it with your fellow Iranian students?
BY: Oh yes, it was at that time all the bets were off. Nobody knew what wasgoing on. Nobody knew who's in charge. We were getting all kinds of a story and of course because of miscommunication and break in with the government system that's all we did, we talked about and everybody were we were worried about what's going to happen to us over here in the United States, what's going on in Iran, what's going to happen to our family. It was, it was a lot of, we went through really harsh time, hard time. And then trying to call our families. Sometimes we'd get through, sometimes we didn't. It was, it was tough.
SY: Yeah that sounds really scary
SY: Were you both, I'm just imagining, I'm thinking, I would both have beenrelieved that I wasn't there, like glad to be safe in the States
SY: But also really worried about not being with my family
BY: Exactly, that, that was, uh. [pause] It wasn't that bad for us here. We weresafe, but again we were worried about our family, and worried about what's gonna happen to us here with the new government. And what was the government? Nobody knew anything about government and again, you going, I don't want to highlight or, or say all the positive things about Shahs and his government nor I, I wish to say anything bad about the current government, but definitely was different. It's, it's different between day and night okay? But I, I leave it for others to decide was it good or bad but I don't think it was that good. Yeah.
SY: Yeah, um so uh do you remember finding out about the hostage crisis?
BY: Ah yes, as a matter of fact I was, I should say that after the Revolution Ididn't think I wanted to stay in the navy, so I said "I want to get out of the navy." They said, "Okay, you got to go back to Iran." I was, that was the end of my junior year here at Norwich. I believe it was summer of '79. So I went to Iran, I went back to Iran, to get out of the navy and I want, my plan was to come back to United States and finish my education. Ah so I was in Iran when the group of students took over American Embassy. As a matter of fact I was standing right in front of the embassy because I was trying to come back to United States and I had to go to American Embassy to get all my documentation paperwork done. And I was standing there when people start going over the walls and take over the embassy. It was [laughs], it was really bad day. So I was there. I was standing there. I was few feet away from the embassy.
SY: Did you know what was going on?
BY: I didn't know what was going on. No. And I was selfishly, I was thinkingabout myself, because I want - my passport was inside the United, American Embassy. I just, all I wanted my passport and get out of country and come back to U.S. and finish my education. I started yelling and hollering at people, "What are you doing?" because again I was unfortunately, unfortunately I was thinking about myself, selfishly. And we almost got into fight with bunch of people who were pro-Khomeini, the student who they knew everything and they took over although we found out they weren't all student, they were other group of people from even foreign countries. So yeah I was standing right when they took the hostages when they moved in to, to American Embassy in Tehran.
SY: How'd you get out of there?
BY: I was outside. I wasn't inside the embassy. I was outside so I just keepwalking around and we got out.
SY: So how'd you manage to leave Iran and get back to the U.S.? I imagine itwasn't easy diplomatically at that moment
BY: No, no. That was a very turmoil time and before, before the student tookover the embassy and took American hostages a lot of people tried very, very hard to leave Iran, come to the United States. And ah, I'm just guessing this because I don't have the right information or data to mention, let's say if there, if they were 100 people, Iranian people, enter the American Embassy maybe 2 or 3 got visa to come to the United States. Because you have to have a reason to come to United States, you have to have financial support to come to United States, on and on and on. So, ah, it was really the crowd, they were there, they were sleeping in the line overnight to be allowed in United, in, in American Embassy. So after they took the embassy we still, I still want to come back to United States so and embassy, there was no embassy in Iran, so friend of mine and I we went to Rome, Italy, to try to get embassy that way. Ah, I was there over two months. Finally I got the visa and I came to United States.
SY: And did you ever get your passport back?
BY: Well yes, I got my passport back in Iran. And again it didn't go through theprocess, even I was approved to get a visa, but it didn't go through so there was no documentation. I started the process all over again in Rome, Italy.
SY: So you didn't have to leave when the other Iranian students had to leave?
BY: No I did not have to leave.
SY: That's because you were no longer part of the navy?
BY: Exactly, exactly
SY: So you didn't have a military passport you had a student visa?
BY: No, I, I had a visa, it wasn't student visa, it was a visa to come to UnitedStates. And as you mentioned, when they deported [coughs] excuse me, the student out of United States, not just Norwich University, because we had other student in, in different part of country, when we came to United States we had a special visa. I believe they called it "A1."
SY: That's what I read
SY: It was an A1 visa
BY: A1 visa. And, and that visa is for military personnel and I think that onlyIranian had that visa. Again I don't know that for sure, I heard that was the only kind of visa they issue to Iranians and, and that indicates anytime United States wants to leave, you have to leave. You have no other choices. For example, there were a lot of civilian student, they had four years visa, they didn't have to go. But anyway, the military student, they had to leave. But when I came back, it was just, I want to say, it was late April of '80 when I came back. I was here about a week or so when United States decided to, to deport all the Iranian student. My classmate, it was like a week or so before the finals. It was before, ah, a week before the finals and they had to leave. And, and I still remember that day.
SY: Can you describe that day to me? What was it like? What was the weatherlike? Was it?
BY: Uh, [laughs] I, I don't respond to weather. It wasn't that good at all. Uhwithin, within, I believe 48 hours Norwich University announced that all the Iranian student they have to leave because the, I want to say State Department, required that. In different state the senators or governors or, or government official tried to convince the State Department and they did, to give the student, military student, enough time so they can graduate and they can go. At that time Norwich did not support that, Norwich did not ask, I believe, or if Norwich asked the senators or, or the officials did not agree. But I don't believe Norwich asked for "let them finish their education." Ah but they said, Norwich said, "if you have a passing grade, as of now, without finals you can graduate." That didn't happen either. So a lot of student left, left United States, some of them came back, but some of them stayed. 50 percent in the navy. They never graduated and they never received the rank as other classmate of theirs in different colleges or different university who graduated. But I must say again, before I go, let me finish this story, I give a lot credit to Dr. Schneider because when he a few years ago, I think it was at our 20th anniversary, he proposed to Board of Trustees that issue honorary degree for the seniors, most of my classmate, seniors who did not graduate to issue honorary degree. I think that was the biggest thing, the most important thing Norwich did for Iranian students, former Iranian students, and that, that was huge, that was huge and, and all the credit must go to Dr. Schneider. And, and uh [chokes up] sometimes it really becomes emotional for me to see the support that Norwich University, especially with the leadership about Schneider because we had leadership before, and unfortunately that wasn't talked about to issue the, the diploma. And, and we had few Iranians came from Iran and they got their honorary degree and they were a lot of Iranian that they were in United States and they went somewhere else, they graduated from some other colleges, but they still they received Norwich degree. So that was it the day, the day was the saddest day in, in my life because again we didn't, I think it was 48 hours it was announced that student have to leave. And again you were here, I don't know, 3-4 years ago, you established some lives here. Some people had cars and they had to get rid of it and where we're sitting today used to be a parking lot for students. And there were a lot of people coming to buy these cars and, and you had to, sometimes, in some cases you owned a car you had to let it go for whatever you could get out of it. And most cases the bank owned the car. So it was, it was like one of the biggest flea market I ever seen [laughs] in my life. And, and people they were trying to get rid of their stuff, they trying to pack and it was, it was very sad day.
SY: How did it feel saying good-bye to your friends?
BY: Ah. I, I, again, some people they were anxious to go back to Iran to seetheir family although they didn't know what they were getting into. But it was a lot of sadness. The day of, the day before departure, one of our classmate had little speech in, um, in dining room and, if I remember, I don't remember exactly what he said. And what he tried to say, or what my understanding was, "I was here four years with all of you, you are friend and family of ours, if I see you, if you go to war" - because at that time we didn't know, here Iranian government or Iranian people took 53 American hostages. What was going to happen? We didn't know, it could have been, start a war somehow. He said, "if I see you in Persian Gulf" - because you are in navy you are supposed to be on the ship -- "I would not shoot you." But again, it was very sad day. Very, very sad day.
SY: What was it like for you the next day to stay when everybody else had left?
BY: Again it was a relief for me but, but still my heart was with, with, withthe friend that they went back to Iran. And some of them didn't go back, some of them they, they stayed here, they got married, or they were married already. And again in Iranian military policy you were not supposed to get married before you graduated from college nor if you want to marry foreign people. You had get, ah, special permission. You weren't supposed to marry foreigners because they had a lot of issues especially in the navy, because before us navy always send their future officer to foreign countries, and again when you're somewhere and you meet your, your mate and your future wife, you get married but it was a lot stuff getting out of, of navy. For example when they started going here they told their wives and soon enough it was all over the world. So that was one of the problem they had with foreign wives so they didn't allow you unless it was a special case.
SY: Did you know at that point, did you think you might build your life in theUS at that point?
BY: Oh yeah, I know. I, I came here to stay, that was my goal, so--
SY: Even like in '76?
BY: No, no not in '76, not in '76
SY: In '80?
BY: In '80 when I came back I came back because I, I used to date my currentwife. So I knew, I knew I was going to stay in United States. But in '77, no, we were here to get education, to get training, and go back serve Iranian Navy.
SY: Was it your wife that made you realize, what, what made you, because youdecided you didn't want to be part of the navy, and your classmates didn't make that decision? Right?
SY: So, what, do you remember the moment you decided that or what made youdecide that, just?
BY: Get out of navy, because uncertainties, and, and not knowing because I wasin Iran during the Revolution before Shah leaves and it wasn't the military I really signed in. I didn't want to, it was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of uncertainty and no one knew what was going on and the folks took over the government, good or bad, they did not have any, any idea of, of running the military system. And I didn't think it was for me so that's why I want to leave, I want to get out of navy. And again when you were in service in Shah's time you signed in for 30 years. Yeah 30 years. So you wouldn't, especially as an officer, okay, because if you want to resign your post as an officer, and the navy command, and you know, and, and the admiral who was in charge of navy had to propose, make the propose to Shah of Iran that so-and-so officer they want to leave. And that would not be a good thing, there would be no admiral go to Shah and say "my officer wanted to leave," because that was a big, huge [laughs] hole in his command. So no one tried to resign from the navy unless you had a really physical problem or there was some issues that, that it would stop you from serving the military. So.
SY: But it wasn't an issue after the Revolution?
BY: No, no after the revolution, after revolution because financially they werein trouble. They couldn't pay everybody. And at that time they thought we were trained under Shah's regime and we wouldn't be a, a dependable officers for Iranian government and they were glad to get rid of us.
SY: Yeah, that makes sense.
SY: um so uh I'm wondering when you arrived back at Northfield in '80 in April,how did you feel when you arrived, because you know when you first arrived on campus, you looked at it and you were like, 'uh what about [inaudible]?
BY: [laughs] Strangely enough you ask that question. At that time, four years inNorthfield, 3 and a half in Northfield, in Vermont, I was seasoned. So ah I knew. And I didn't want to really leave Northfield, especially my wife being native Vermonter, she was born in Montpelier, so moving out of Vermont or Northfield was not a big, huge, it wasn't in my agenda. So it was okay. It was okay, I was used to Vermont. So it's a, by all means Northfield was a good place to have a quiet lifestyle and raise a family, so.
SY: So I would imagine after just seeing what you'd witnessed a quiet lifereally appeals
BY: [laughs] Yeah, sure.
SY: [laughter] Um so yeah, I was going to ask what made you decide to stay inNorwich, but I think you, I think you just answered question.
SY: Let's see, so we've been asking people as sort of how their Norwicheducation has influenced their view of the world.
BY: Sure. Ah again, I'm talking about my own experience. Norwich has a specialplace in my heart, in my life, and I believe what I have today it is because of Norwich University. And it's a very special and unique place and I owe Norwich for what I have today. And again when I came back to United States in 80s I tried to go college and work again, it, it didn't work out and again for second time they give me opportunity to be employee of Norwich and even though I start at the lowest level, I used to work at the grounds crew back then. There is no word I can describe what Norwich means to me. It is, it's the best and most important element in my life. I hope I answered your question.
SY: No, I think you did answer my question. So you did, did you graduate in '80?
BY: I did not graduate in '80 because I wasn't, I left end of my junior year.When I came back I started working for Norwich. I had, I don't remember correctly how many courses but it wasn't that many, a few courses. I was working and I was taking classes. And I believe I graduated in 1990. I finished, I finished up, because I couldn't take more than one course per semester. So it was a slow, but--.
SY: And what was your degree in at that point?
BY: Business Management
SY: Business Management. And you were no longer in the Corps?
BY: No, no I was not in the Corps because I was working and I believe today ifyou are few years older than your classmate, you cannot be in the Corps and wear a uniform. So when I came back in 80s I attended classes as a civilian students. Yup.
SY: Does the Norwich motto mean anything to you, I Will Try? Some people --
BY: Yes, yes it means anything, because I think in my lifestyle, in my life,that I Will Try, and I did try, I did try, if I didn't, I wouldn't be here today. Okay? And I always that was my role model, I Will Try, and it doesn't matter where you are, or what you do. I don't think I should ever stop and try to reach higher level in my life. It's not always about job opportunities, or position, but I cannot set and idle, to say "okay, I'm here, I did want to do and I'm done." No, I'm never done, I Will Try until the day I die. Yes it means a lot.
SY: So if I were to say to you, what is, where is your home now? What would you answer?
BY: Obviously the home is here for me. I have two wonderful kids, children, andmy wife and they're my life, and I have to say my home is here. But often people ask me, "Wha-which country is more important to you? Where is the home, real home?" My very simple answer is the question you're asking me is you ask a child, "which of your parents you like better? Your father or your mother?" Okay? I have respect for both land and country and the people, of course I disagree with a lot of things on both sides. But, but, my, my primary home is here in United States in Northfield, Vermont.
SY: Are there still things that make you homesick for Iran?
BY: Yes, it does.
SY: Like what?
BY: Like, again, I lived in that country for 20 years. The culture, my family,my immediate family, my sister and my mom and dad passed. But those are the people you cannot ever replace, so I get homesick, not, not say homesick, I miss the time and the people I used to be around. And that's why I try to go, to go for a visit every 2-3 years. So, it's, again as I indicated before, mention, family is very, very important to our culture, and I try to stay in contact with them.
SY: Has your wife, have your wife and kids gone?
BY: No, unfortunately no. It is, after Revolution the requirement to get a visato go to Iran is really harsh, it's really hard because Iranian government recognize, still recognize us as Iranian because you are born in Iran. Therefore we got married in United States, our family they are Iranians, because your, your nationality they believe go after your father's nationality. Even though I am not, I'm American citizen, but they still see us as Iranian. And for my wife to go to Iran she has to be married with the Muslim requirement and she must have Persian name. That means she has to change her name and she became Iranian to get visa. But this is only on paper. Both, both side, United States and Iran, they know this and they're not really holding every-everybody responsible, but it's a long process and unfortunately we haven't done it. She's very excited about it and my kid, my kids too. They want to go to Iran and see Iran but I don't think right now it's, it's safe enough to do that. Although a lot of people they go to Iran all the time back and forth but I, I don't feel comfortable. I don't feel safe to take them to Iran right now. Hopefully one of these days we get opportunity to do so.
SY: How did you meet your wife?
BY: I met my wife, I believe in, she used to work in National Life Library andas a student I had to prepare the paper and I was told to go to National Life Library to get some material. And the minute I did I met her there back in '77 I believe. 1977. Yeah that's how I had the opportunity to meet her.
SY: So what was it like when President Schneider gave these honorary degrees tosee all of your friends again?
BY: Yeah, it, it was very refreshing. It was very exciting. It was veryemotional for a lot of us and again, it was one of the proudest day in our life, in my life, because even though when people left here, when the seniors left here, Norwich left a bad taste in their mouth, because it was announced "Don't worry, we give you your degree if as of now you have a passing grade." Norwich didn't do it.
SY: Why not, what happened? Was it political?
BY: I, I don't really don't know. It was political issue and at the time, uh, Ithink Loring Hart was the president, didn't happen. I really honestly don't know the reason, but it didn't happen. And, and for many years, it's still today, trust is very important, when it comes to Middle East, especially Iranian. If they trust you they do anything for you, and they trusted what they were told and, and the outcome was opposite. They had a lot of bad feeling. But after, you know, Dr. Schneider came up with the idea, and he wasn't, I believe it wasn't that easy to, to do that. And with the help of Dr. Schneider and I must say, I, I must mention Keith Barrett. Keith Barrett today is a trustee of this institution. Keith Barrett had a lot of, ah, he should get a lot of credit for this too. Because I was on a business trip, sometime I don't know, in I think late 90s or early 2000, and we meet each other and he start talking about this and he delivered, he worked with Dr. Schneider. He was trustee as well at that time. So he worked very hard with Dr. Schneider to make this happen. So he must receive a lot of credit.
SY: Was he a student at the time?
BY: He was my classmate
SY: He was your classmate?
SY: Did you know him then?
BY: Unfortunately I didn't know when I was in school. Him and his wife, SueBarrett, they are both my classmate. Yeah, and today they are [laughs] class presidents as well too. Keith, Keith is, yeah.
SY: That's great. Uh, do you remember some of the first friends you made withAmericans at Norwich?
BY: First friends --
SY: Who was your roommate?
BY: Brian Anderson [sighs.] Brian Anderson was one of my first friend. He was awonderful, wonderful guy. Unfortunately I don't know where he is or what he does today. And he was my roommate and he was my first friend and he was a great guy, great guy. But the sad thing is I don't know where he is and I try to find him, but I wasn't able to.
SY: Was he more open some of the other students?
BY: Yeah, he was very cool, was cool guy, and again not all the Norwich studentthey were, you know, they didn't use maliciously harm us. There were a lot of students, a lot of guys, they were very open as it is today. You know, not everybody's the same, not everybody's equal. He was one of those guys, he was cool, he was open to, to different culture, different relationship, and, and yeah, he was one of my first and best friend.
SY: What did you guys do together?
BY: Ah, we used to, well of course, when we were, he was my rook friend. At thattime we didn't go a lot of places because we couldn't go a lot of places. But after we recognized, we went to discos, we went shopping together, and we hung around a lot.
SY: What music were you listening to when you were here?
BY: Disco! [laughs]
SY: and had you been listening to disco in Iran too?
SY: Yeah, yeah
BY: Again we had a really good understanding of Western lifestyle because we didhave it there. For example, we had a lot of Western movie, American movie in Iran, and it was after the release maybe it was month or two old, it was in Iran. And or television, we have a lot of stories, half an hour stories in Iran in public television, like Rawhides, or, or Happy Days. Is it Happy Days? Days of our, Days of Our Lives and stuff like that, so we had a pretty good idea what was going on. Uh so we, we adopted, of course we were young enough to, we were after, you know, new things and happy things and so we had a good idea what was going on.
SY: Where'd you go dancing in Northfield?
BY: Well, that's, that's the problem [laughs]. We didn't go [inaudible]. When Isaid music, yeah we were familiar, we could sing the song, we didn't know the meaning of the song, but we could sing it. There wasn't that many opportunity in Central Vermont. The first disco place was a club called Van Horn's is in Barre-Montpelier Road. A lot of VC girls and Norwich student used to go there. Shortly enough we found out that wasn't really the environment we wanted to be part of. We used to go to Burlington. Burlington had few clubs. We used to go there.
SY: What clubs did you go to?
BY: Uh there was a club called, ah, god, Le Club. Le Club, which I think isFrench. And another club in Shelburne Road and unfortunately the name is escaping me right now. It's a big huge club, disco, dancing. Ah, I can't remember the name.
SY: So I have one more question, I know you have to go, so [clear throat] youknow Norwich is all about the citizen-soldier idea
SY: I'm sort of curious about how, because you're not in the military now, howyour military training has affected you later on your life and what you relate to this idea of the citizen-soldier?
BY: Hmm. I am for military lifestyle, well, not only because I was here atNorwich, my previous training and lifestyle. Military life make you a, a responsible person and I can see today how it affected my life. For example you get up early in the morning and, and you start taking care of yourself and taking care of everybody else that is your family or for example here, at work, who serve under you. I believe every youngster out of high school should receive some sort of military training, okay? Ah, because military lifestyle make you responsible, again. And here at Norwich, citizen-soldier, it's soldier I think the word soldier because it's a military institution, but it's the leadership you learn, you follow to go through and serve the community. The community could be Norwich community, could be Northfield, could be Vermont, or could be United States. They, they train you, teach you, not only take care of yourself but take care of the people, the community you belong, so.
SY: So did you learn a different type of leadership here than you had previouslyin your military training in Iran?
BY: Uh I can't say it was different. Again bottom line, bottom line the militarylifestyle, the training is about taking care of people. So it was different avenue, different presentation, but is all the same, I think. I think it was all the same. But I had, I was lucky enough, my previous training helped me to understand, and work it much, much better and, and faster than the rest of my classmate for example.
SY: That makes sense, and what about your non-military classes? What about theacademic training that you got here, was there any particular professor that stuck with you?
BY: Ah yeah, many of my, my teachers, professors helped me a lot. And again,although I didn't go, I didn't attend any other colleges but they made you earn the credit, the grade. I'm sorry. They made you learn it so passing grade it was not just passing through, passing grade meant you learned things. I think academically, although we're not Ivy College here, but, but it was very hard. At that time we didn't understand it. We were against it. But today I realize how lucky I was to be at Norwich and how lucky I was to be taught best of the best so yeah that, that was important as well too academically.
SY: Well I know you have to run
SY: I'm actually out of questions
SY: This was great
BY: Yeah, yeah, I do, I do, I love cooking, I'm not a good cook, but I can cook.