Alborz High School Celebrating Our National Heritage
March 20, 2017 by Editor
Dr. Hossein Gharib
This report is an abridged version of my presentation at the Academy of Persian American Physicians in Los Angeles on February 10, 2017. It briefly reviews the founding, growth, contributions and service of Alborz High School to Iranian education and society. It also highlights the lives, philosophies, services and legacies of two of its most revered principals: Dr. Samuel Jordan, with his American Administration, and Dr. Mohammad Ali Mojtahedi, with his remarkable dedication and discipline.
This commentary is dedicated to the memories of Dr. Jordan and Dr. Mojtahedi, two pioneers in modern education in Iran, and to the thousands of Alborz alumni worldwide.
The American Presbyterian missionaries arrived in Iran in 1833, as part of an evangelical mission to the Nestorian Assyrian peoples in Urumia and Azarbayjan, but soon expanded their reach to Tehran, Tabriz and Hamadan. This was during the reign of Nasser-eddin Shah (1831-1986) and his son, Mozzafar-eddin Shah (1896-1907). At that time Tehran was a small, dirty, underdeveloped city of a 100,000 people, with minimal health care or educational facilities.
In 1873, the missionary James Bassett, founded the American School for Boys, first located in Atabak Building in Lalehzar Avenue, and later relocated to Darvazeh Ghazvin. Eventually, the school was moved to north Tehran where 44 acres of desolate land became the home of the Alborz College. In 1899, Reverand Samuel Jordan arrived and took over as the school’s new principal.
Rev Dr. Samuel Martin Jordan (1871-1952)
Known as “Sam” to his friends and “Dr. Jordan” in Iran, he was born in New Park, PA. He received his B.A. at Lafayette College in 1895, where he was known as a colorful and energetic person, and his M.A. in Theology at Princeton, later to be ordained as a Presbyterian Minister in 1898. That same year, he married Mary Wood Park, and soon left for Iran, a journey that took 21/2 months!
He served as the President of Alborz from 1899 to 1940. He took over a school in 1899 with only 150 students and 6 grades. By 1913, there were 500 students and 12 grades; in 1925 American College of Tehran opened its doors. By 1929, Alborz had nearly 800 students in 15 levels, including a 3-year accredited B.A. college program. In 1940, Alborz College had 850 students, graduated 106 from its junior college and granted 20 B.A.s, including 4 degrees to women.
Sam and Mary Jordan worked as a team, lived on campus, planned school development and expansion together, and were academically and socially involved with their students. Alborz had a large library, a laboratory, and an athletics department. It created Iran’s first dormitory, called McCormick Hall, which opened in 1918.
Jordan’s legacy was the establishment of a modern educational institution. He introduced advanced education in Iran, trained hunDr.eds of outstanding graduates, and emphasized the benefits of character-building (paravaresh), not merely instruction (amoozesh). As such, Sam, Mary, and their Alborz colleagues, promoted student gatherings, group trips, sports, lab exercises, and the value of libraries. The friendly, fatherly demeanor of Dr. Jordan was a feature remembered by many of his Alborz pupils.
Jordan’s love for Iran, its culture, and his students, was genuine and profound. He was deeply saddened and disappointed when Reza Shah ordered the Iranian Government to take over Alborz by purchasing land and buildings in 1940. His personal plea to remain in Iran was denied by the Shah. However, Mohammad Reza Shah invited Dr. & Mrs Jordan back in 1944.
He was awarded a medal, toured the country for five months, and visited their many friends. During this visit, at a reception at Ferdowsi Hotel, the famous poet, and Sam’s friend, Mohamad Taghi Bahar, recited his famous poem:
What ignorance is this by which we die?
Relief we must discover if we can
Who is the doctor with discerning eye?
A wise man said to me,
In 1948, the Alborz Alumni Association honored Jordan by placing his stone bust (tandis), created by Ostad Abolhassan Sadeghi, in the vestibule of the Alborz Jordan Hall. The bust was removed after the Islamic Revolution. He was also remembered by naming a major road connecting Tehran to Shemiran, Avenue Jordan. Although the road was later renamed Africa, many residents still call it “Jordan.”
Jordan died on July 2, 1952 in Los Angeles. Two years later Mary passed away. Soon after his death, there was an outpouring of affection at a memorial service on Alborz campus. More than 1000 people attended the service, including dignitary-alumni such as Allahyar Saleh and Ali Asghar Hekmat.
Dr. Mohammad Ali Mojtahedi (1908-1997)
Mohammad Ali Mojtahedi was born in Lahijan. After finishing Tehran’s Dar-ol-Moalemin Markazi in 1931, he went to France on a scholarship offered by Iranian government. He attended Lycee Blaise Pascal in Claremont Ferrant, and then the University of Lille, receiving a B.A. in Mathematics in 1934. He received a PhD with honors from Sorbonne in 1938, before returning to Iran with his French wife.
His first job back in Iran was at the Engineering Faculty of Tehran University where he taught mathematics for the next 30 years. In 1941 he started teaching at Alborz High School, and managed its boarding facilities. In 1944 he was appointed as Alborz’s Principal, a position he held until 1979. His achievements were quick & impressive. During his first year, the number of students passing national exams (emtehan nahaee) rose to 129 out of 179, compared to 29 out of 210 in the previous year.
Under Mojtahedi’s leadership, Alborz continued to grow and expand, becoming a modern educational complex. The number of enrolled students was 600 in 1945, increasing to 1500 in 1958, and expanded to 5,500 by 1978. He was also instrumental in expanding the school’s facilities, administrative staff, and raising the number and quality of its teaching staff.
The number of teachers increased from 30 to 345, between 1946 and 1979, just before Mojtahedi’s tenure ended. The importance of physical activity through sports, left-over from Jordan’s days, continued. Finally, financial assistance was offered to needy students, including residence in the dormitory, facts hardly known to public, and never publicized.
For Iranians, the names of Mojtahedi and Alborz are synonymous. Mojtahedi was a pioneer in secondary education, developed an effective and superior system at Alborz, and his success had great impact on general education in Iran. Mojtahedi’s legacy was education and graduation of thousands of high-quality men who became professionals and contributed to the modernization and development of Iran during the country’s formative years, 1945 to 1980.
Mojtahedi ran Alborz with authority and success. He was well-informed, dedicated and disciplined. And he expected the same from his students.
It is a tribute to Mojtahedi’s high public respect that, in a period when prime ministers and education ministers frequently changed, he remained the uninterrupted Alborz Principal over 3 decades. Although he humbly attributed the successes of Alborz to its outstanding teachers, it would not have happened without his exemplary leadership. He gave credit to Jordan, referring to him as the “Father of Alborz.”
Sadly, with the 1979 revolution, the era of Mojtahedi came to an abrupt end. Soon thereafter, he was stripped of all public service and accused of “strengthening the Shah’s regime.” It is most ironic that Mohammad Ali Mojtahedi, a highly patriotic man, had to spend the rest of his life in exile in France. He died in 1997, a few months after the death of his only daughter, Suzie. His son, Parviz, died of cancer in 2003.
Soon after his death, 20 years ago this year, memorial services were organized at Alborz by his friends, colleagues, and former students. Two of his old & long-time Alborz associates, Mousavi Makooee & Mahmoud Behzad, gave brief, heart-warming eulogies. Memorial services were held, and obituaries published, in many other locations, including at the UCLA where an old Alborz teacher, Dr. Baruch Berookhim, spoke of Dr. Mojtahedi’s profile and service.
Alborz High School
Located in the heart of Tehran, in the land purchased by Jordan and at chahar-raheh College, the high school is named after Alborz Mountain. The main building, sakhteman markazi, was designed by Nikolai Markoff, a Georgian architect and Iran resident.
It was constructed by Ostad Hossein Me’mar, in 1924. Additional buildings, sakhteman sefid and sakhteman jadeed, were later designed and built by Mohandes Hossein Amanat, an Alborz graduate. In 2006, the Alborz campus was designated as a historic site (mandegar), representing the largest, most prestigious high school in Iran.
Throughout its history, Alborz has played a major role in Iranian education. Alborz, now 144 years old, has survived the reign of six kings (Naser-eddin, Mozzafer-eddin, Mohammad Ali, and Ahmad Shah Qajar; Reza & Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi), as well as four decades of Islamic Republic. Mir Assadollah Mousavi Makooee, a close associate of Mojtahedi, worked at Alborz as Director of Dormitories and nazem, from 1946 to 1978. He later served as a Majlis deputy and published a book on Alborz Dormitories (Dabeerestan Alborz va Shabaneh Roozieh On).
Some other legendary teachers include Dr. Mahmoud Behzad; Dr. Zeinolabedin Motamen; Dr. Baruch Berookhim; Ahmad Rafizadeh; Bagher Nahvi; Azizollah Khosravi Kamrani; Mir Zaki Kompani; Mostafa Derakhshesh; Sadegh Ershadi; Jalal Matini; Hassan Ali Vahid; Rohani, Saadat; Toosi, Moosa Azarnoosh; Tasleemi; Javad Heydari; Esmail Boozari; Yahya Dowlatshahi; Ali Akbar Kaveh; Mohammad Nasrollah; Jafar Golbabee and Parineh.
Among notable alumni are Mohamad Ali Nodooshan (author); Dariush Ashouri (author); Mostafa Chamran (Defense Minister); Houshang Chehabi (professor); Dariush Homayoun (politician); Homayoun Khorram, (musician); Homayoun Katouzian (historian); Khosrow Sinai (film director); Fariborz Maseeh (entrepreneur); and Hossein Amanat (architect of Azadi Tower).
Best estimates suggest that between 1940 and 1980, Alborz produced over 20,000 qualified graduates who went mostly into science, technology & medicine, and provided the leadership for Iran’s advances & progress in the twentieth century. It is noteworthy that both Jordan and Mojtahedi, by providing superior education at Alborz High School, contributed significantly to Iran’s upward move into the ranks of developing nations.
I attended Alborz High School from 1952 to 1958. There were 289 in our graduating class: 202 in tabyee and 87 in riazee.
I remember the first day my father took me to Alborz to register me for 7th grade, and to see his friend, Dr. Mojtahedi. I also remember the last time I saw Dr. Mojtahedi in 1958, to say goodbye before I left for U.S.
Alborz was the place I studied and learned much, met so many nice people and established lasting friendships. It was where we discussed politics, smoked my first cigarette, contemplated my future and spent my teenage years.
For more than half a century, I have remembered and reflected many wonderful, fond Alborz memories.
It is with profound gratitude and nostalgia that I remember Alborz, Mojtahedi, my teachers and my classmates. I owe so much to so many.
Sorood Alborz by Ostad Motamen (1945)
Ma sheer delan
mazhareh niroo-yeh jahaneem
az peel natarseem
keh ma sheer zhyaneem
niroodeh jesmeem-o fazayandeh janeem
har ja honary hast
The success and fame of Alborz High School during the last century can be attributed to Rev Dr. Samuel Jordan’s educational philosophy. His early American Missionary team Dr. Mohammad Ali Mojtahedi’s remarkable dedication and discipline. A collection of devoted and gifted teachers selection, admission and education of top level & highly motivated students.