Nosratollah Rassekh, educator, was among early Persian Bahá’ís in U.S.
Nosratollah “Nas” Rassekh, a Bahá’í scholar, author and translator, for many years professor and chairman of the department of history at Lewis and Clark College, was part of a groundbreaking contingent of nine young Iranian men who came to study in the United States in 1944.
He passed away September 7, 2014, at age 89 in Portland, Oregon, whose Spiritual Assembly he had served for half a century.
A message on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to his family states in part: “His long life of steadfast service to the Cause, including his contributions to the field of Bahá’í scholarship and his distinguished career as an educator, is recalled with deep admiration.”
The National Spiritual Assembly, in its own message of tribute, recalls his service as “an able presenter and panelist at public events and at conferences, … his election and conscientious exertions over the course of many years as a delegate to National Convention, his appointed services on several important national committees and advisory boards, and his continuing efforts to explicate the Bahá’í teachings, enriching the Faith’s growing literature with some seven articles published in the pages of World Order magazine between the years 1967–82.”
Nas was born in 1924 in Tehran, one of eight children of Ahmad and Fatemeh Rassekh, a distinguished Bahá’í family whose branches reach around the world.
Two decades later he was one of nine young Bahá’í men dispatched from Iran with Shoghi Effendi’s permission to study in the United States, a contingent that proved the vanguard of larger numbers of Iranian believers integrating over the years into the U.S. Bahá’í community.
Enrolling in Stanford University in California, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees there and began his career as an educator in Sedona, Arizona. While working on his doctorate focusing on American intellectual history, he taught at Stanford for four years.
He brought up four children from his first marriage in 1954 to Valerie Latham, and three children joined the blended family thanks to his 1979 marriage to Mona Bashir-Elahi.
During the mid-1950s Nas served the Bahá’í Faith on the national Youth Committee and College Bureau. Over the years he gave public talks and participated in panels and broadcast interviews on various topics illuminating the Bahá’í teachings and history, often in relation to those of Christianity and other religions.
In 1960, soon after earning his doctorate, he moved to Portland and joined the Lewis and Clark faculty. He worked to broaden its offerings in several ways: spearheading overseas study programs, developing courses on Middle Eastern history and politics in addition to his mainstay of U.S. history, supporting fellow faculty in creating courses on African-American and women’s history, and more.
Topics of his scholarly writings included interethnic relations in the United States; progressive revelation; and the first 138 years of Christianity, of Islam, and of the Bahá'í Faith, and the development of society in those respective periods.
“Colleagues wrote that ‘Nas is remembered by his gentle and kind spirit’ and his ‘delightful sense of humor often expressed in the form of engaging stories,’” according to a remembrance posted on the Lewis and Clark College website.
During his years in Oregon he continued to make frequent Bahá’í-oriented presentations at schools and conferences, and was for a time a member of the Advisory Board for Bosch Bahá’í School in Santa Cruz, California. He was elected more than a dozen times to attend the Bahá’í National Convention as a delegate.
His lifelong work, not only in academics but also toward increasing understanding of Middle Eastern history and culture, was recognized in 2004 when he was named as one of five Most Honored Elders in Portland’s Asian community.
Nas Rassekh is survived by his wife of 35 years, Mona; six children, Paree, Susan, William, Martha, Mitra and Sam; a sister, Bahereh; two brothers, Ataollah and Shapour; and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death in 2011 by one child, Michael.