Bedrosian loves solving problems

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bedrosianWhen Haiganush R. Bedrosian graduated from Brown University in Providence in 1965 with a political science degree, she wanted to further her education to become a lawyer. She was told, however, that “women don’t go to law school,” so she went into teaching.

Bedrosian’s desire to become a lawyer didn’t diminish while she instructed fifth-graders at the Finberg Elementary School in Attleboro, prompting her to take the advice of a friend that encouraged her to attend law school at Suffolk University in Boston while continuing to teach.

For four years, she carpooled to and from Beantown with fellow law school students, the same students with whom she studied for hours, which paid off in a big way. Bedrosian became the salute to seniors 2014first woman appointed as chief judge of the Rhode Island Family Court toward the end 2010, after served as an associate justice of the court for 30 years.

After graduating from Suffolk, Bedrosian served for one year as law clerk for the Rhode Island Supreme Court. In private practice specializing in family law, she was often appointed by

Family Court judges to represent youth charged with delinquency offenses or to act as guardian ad litem to children in the custody of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF).

While in private practice, she was employed part-time in the state attorney general’s prosecution unit. In 1980, then Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy had the courage to appoint her as the first woman associate justice in the Family Court.

“I was in shock,” the chief judge said about receiving the telephone call notifying her of the appointment. “I said I will have to call you back.”

She later learned that the governor, who passed away in 2012, said that if Bedrosian didn’t call him back with 10 minutes or so, he was going to contact the next person on the appointment list, the chief justice said.

“I immediately called a few friends and they told me to call the governor right back. They said such an opportunity doesn’t come around twice in a lifetime.”

“I love the job,” Bedrosian said later in the interview at her office in the J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence. After declining to state how old she is, the chief justice said she has no immediate plans to step down from a position for which there is no mandatory retirement age.

Proud of her efforts to employ mediation as a way to resolve as many Family Court cases as possible, Bedrosian said there is still work to be done to bring the court into the 21st century.

“We will be moving into the E-filing in the late fall,” she said. “We are moving along.”

Bedrosian will be one of 13 “Women of Achievement” honored by the YWCA Rhode Island at a ceremony on Sept. 30 at the Kirkbrae County Club in Lincoln. Established in 2005, the annual event recognizes accomplishments of women across industry, culture and public service.

The daughter of Armenian immigrants, Bedrosian is a member of the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolistic Church in Providence and volunteers for activities sponsored and conducted by the congregation.

She was married for 15 years to Vincent T. Izzo, who passed away at the age of 76 in July 2005. Bedrosian described her late husband as “full-time Italian” that “was smarter than smart.” A self-employed accountant for many years, he also had a long career in the public sector, serving as finance director and treasurer for the City of Providence, deputy state treasurer and town manager of Narragansett.

“I still love the courtroom,” Bedrosian said. “I’ve was in love with it the minute I walked in the first day. … There is a lot of energy. … A lot of good energy because we are solving problems.”

Bedrosian encourages seniors to become problem solvers, using their life experience to be court appointed special advocates for children who have been abused or neglected and as a result are involved with the DCYF and Family Court. For more information, call (401) 458-5300.

The Women of Achievement luncheon is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and tickets are $50 per person. Details are available online at www.womenofachievementRI.org.

Editor’s note: Salute to Seniors is a feature aimed at celebrating the many significant contributions and accomplishments of men and women age 50 and beyond. Salute to Seniors is sponsored by the Bankers Life and Casualty Company regional office in Warwick and “Senior Digest,” online at www.seniordigestnews.com. To nominate someone for a salute, send the person’s name, address, telephone number and reason for nomination to Senior Digest, 36 French Drive, Seekonk, Mass., 02771, or to sdpublisher@gmail.com. Bankers Life can be reached at (401) 732-5213.

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