Surrounded by a region that has one of the largest concentrations of Assyrians in the United States, it was only fitting that Stanislaus State’s University Library welcomed its very own Francis Sarguis Modern Assyrian Heritage Collection Wednesday among faculty, staff and the greater community.
“It’s a very important and significant moment for the university and for the library,” said Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn. “It is certainly one of the few universities in California that have assembled a collection of modern Assyrian works and we are very pleased and honored to have it here.”
With a $50,000 gift in August of last year, Francis Sarguis established the Francis Sarguis Modern Assyrian Heritage Fund at Stanislaus State in memory of his mother to allow the university to acquire books and materials about modern Assyrian culture. On Wednesday, the university unveiled its collection of 129 in-print books, 23 e-books, six journals, and 85 books in cue to be ordered.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am by the positive reaction I’ve had from not only the university, but also from people from my own Assyrian community whom I have a great deal of respect,” said Sarguis. “It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to make a contribution to the advancement of Assyrian modern studies.”
University Library Dean Ron Rodriguez said that the Modern Assyrian Heritage Collection at Stanislaus State covers Assyrian history about individuals, events, religion, migration, societal issues and cultural practices and customs from 300 AD to present day.
“The Modern Heritage Collection is highly significant because we foresee that the library will become the west coast research destination for the history and culture of the Assyrian people,” said Gonzalez. “In short, it includes all manifestations of Assyrian experience in any geographical area since 300 AD.”
The Modern American Heritage Collection is not the only new addition to Stanislaus State as James Tuedio, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, announced that the university will also be granting the Sarguis Student Award on an annual basis with the first recipient Katie Jaycox announced Wednesday.
“The award was a complete surprise,” said Jaycox, who is currently a master’s student in history. “This is the perfect university to do this study at, so I just feel immensely happy and honored.”
Jaycox said that through her research, she hopes to help more people understand who Assyrians are — including their culture and the role they play in the community — by collecting oral histories of local Assyrians.
“The idea at this point would be to do a social and cultural history of Assyrian communities in the area starting with getting an understanding of how the Assyrian communities became established in this area, as well as classic issues all immigrants face about retaining a distinct cultural identity and connection to a cultural heritage while at the same time assimilating to a different environment and different community,” said Jaycox’s thesis supervisor and history professor Brandon Wolfe-Hunnicutt.
“We will be using a methodology that is largely going to be reconstructing this history on the basis of oral histories, interviews, sort of ethnographic approaches by getting some life stories and trying to construct a grand narrative through the lens of particular individuals,” continued Wolfe-Hunnicutt.
In addition to announcing the first recipient of the Sarguis Student Award, Tuedio spoke about Stanislaus State’s intent to hire a faculty member whose scholarly focus will be on the modern Assyrian period.
“As an academic program develops, the best person to have is a trained faculty member who is in the position to establish not only their teaching excellence, but also their scholarly excellence and their service to the campus and community,” said Tuedio. “We look forward next fall to bring a faculty member before you whose expertise is in this very area.”
For more information on the library’s newest addition — including a digital guide — visit libguides.csustan.edu and search for “Modern Assyrian Heritage Collection.”