Board of Trustees
Abtin Sassanfar - Vice-Chairman
Dr. Abtin Sassanfar, a scholar of the Zoroastrian religion and a lawyer by profession, was born in 1928 in Tehran, Iran. In his studies, he benefited from the advice and instruction of scholars such as Ebrahim Pourdavud, Mohammad Moghaddam and Davud Monschizadeh. After graduating from Tehran University’s Law School and completing a two-year course in banking, he worked for two years at the National Bank of Iran. However, at the age of 25 he entered the legal profession and was chosen as a member of the Regulatory Court of the Association of Iranian Lawyers. In 1955 he traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to study international law, but later transferred to Paris where he received a doctorate in Law (1962), before returning to Tehran to continue his law practice. In the meantime he taught administrative and international law for eight years at the National University in Tehran, without abandoning, however, his interest in Iranian history and Avestan studies, about which he delivered many lectures and wrote a number of articles. Dr. Sassanfar was later appointed by the Iranian government as an international referee in matters of transport, centered in Zurich, Switzerland, and he was also elected as an economic advisor in the European Union (1977). After the 1979 Revolution in Iran, he chose to settle in Paris, following which he became a member of the Lawyers Association of France. After 25 years of practicing law in France, he recently announced his retirement.
Mina Atabai is a real estate broker with 20 years experience in the Manhatten market for Southeby’s International Reality. She has extensive experience in conference planning and in public relations for both industry and government. As a member of the staff of the Women’s Organization of Iran (WOI) in the 1970s, she researched and reported on issues of domestic importance, such as standards of living in different provinces, distribution and sufficiency of welfare centers, and literacy rates in different provinces. She developed and presented proposals, orally and in writing, to government ministers. She represented the WOI in conferences in India, Canada, England, Israel and the United States. Mina was born in Iran to an Austrian father and an Iranian mother. She has been a Manhattan resident for thirty years.
Layla Diba, Ph.D. is an independent scholar and art advisor. She has held positions as the director and chief curator of the Negarestan Museum in Teheran (1975-79) and as an art advisor for Private Secretariat of Her Majesty Queen Farah of Iran. She was formerly Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and adjunct professor at the Bard Graduate Center. In 2006, Dr. Diba was invited to develop programming and strategy for the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum and to serve on the Museum’s Asian Art Council. She has curated exhibitions at the Lehmann-Maupin and Leila Taghinia Milani Heller Galleries in New York and served on the advisory panel of the Islamic World Arts Initiative of the Doris Duke Foundation. Her most recent publication is Turkmen Jewelry: Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn Wolf Collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011). Most recently, she co-curated the 'Iran Modern' exhibition held at the Asia Society Museum, New York, September 6, 2013 - January 5, 2014. She was also co-editor of the associated exhibition catalogue, Iran Modern, published in 2013. Her articles have appeared in numerous artistic and scholarly publications, she serves on the Board of the Soudavar Memorial Foundation, and advises various philanthropic organizations related to Persian Art including the Iran Heritage Foundation. She holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and a M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Shirin Neshat was born in 1957 in Qazvin, Iran. She attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1979; her Master of Arts degree in 1981; and her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1982. Currently, Neshat lives and works in New York City. Shirin Neshat’s photographs and videos have been included in many international exhibitions, includingJurassic Technologies Revenant, the 10th Biennale of Sydney (1996); 5th International Istanbul Biennale and Trade Routes: History and Geography. 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997); Unfinished History, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1998) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1999); and Exploding Cinema, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam,Heavenly Figure, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Zeitwenden, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, in cooperation with Kunstmuseum, Bonn, SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico, La Ville, le Jardin, la Mémoire-1998, 2000, 1999, Académie de France, Villa Medici, Rome, and 48th Venice Biennale (1999). In 1996 Neshat's work was presented by Creative Time for Anchorage, Brooklyn Bridge, New York. Solo exhibitions of Neshat's work have been presented at Franklin Furnace, New York (1993); Centre d'art contemporain, Fribourg (1996); Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana (1997); Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, New York, and Tate Gallery of Modern Art at St. Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside, London (1998); and The Art Institute of Chicago (1999). In 1996 Neshat was awarded a grant from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.
Maryam Akhavan Rahimian was born in 1957 in Tehran. She came to the United States in 1974, where she finished her high school in Seattle, Washington. She met Majid in Tehran in 1977 and decided to continue her college education in Iran. She moved to Sacramento in 1979 and received her Master of Science in Biology in 1986. Maryam received her real estate license in 1991 and started her construction company in 1999, named Pars Development LLC. It has been building affordable housing in the Sacramento area. She was the co-recipient of the National Philanthropic Award with her husband Majid in 2003. They were instrumental in the establishment of the Persian Language Collection of the Sacramento Public Libraries, as well as the establishment of the Center for Iranian Studies at Sacramento State University.