Heshmat Moayyad, Influential Persian Scholar, Translator, and Writer, 1927–2018

Heshmat Moayyad, who established the Persian program at UChicago, passed away on June 25 at the age of 90. During more than four decades at UChicago, Moayyad trained two generations of scholars who teach at more than a half-dozen universities. His scholarly contributions to the literature and religions of Iran cover a score of books, including critical editions, edited volumes and translations, and more than 100 articles and reviews, written in four languages.

Among his many accomplishments, Moayyad translated modern Persian literature into English and German. He organized major international conferences at UChicago on the Indo-Persian poet Amir Khosrow (died 1325) and on the Iranian poet Parvin Etesâmi (died 1941), as well as the first academic conference about “The Baha'i Faith and Islam” in 1984 at McGill University in Montreal.

Although Moayyad could not travel to his native Iran after 1978 because of the persecution of the Baha'i community, in the 1980s he hosted a series of “Persian Poetry Evenings” at UChicago. For more than a decade, Moayyad’s lectures drew many Persian scholars, writers, poets and musicians from Iran, Afghanistan, and India to campus.

Born on November 27, 1929, in Hamadan, Iran, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Persian and Arabic literature from the University of Tehran in 1949. After a year traveling throughout Iran, Moayyad left for Germany to continue his studies in Persian, Islamic Studies, and German at the University of Frankfurt am Main, where he earned his doctorate degree under Hellmut Ritter in 1958.

His teaching career began in Frankfurt as a lecturer, moving in 1960 to the Istituto Universitario Orientale in Naples, where he became professore incaricato. Moayyad first came to the United States as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University from 1962 to 1963.

During this time, U.S. universities usually did not teach Persian literature. However, when he became an assistant professor in 1966 at UChicago, Moayyad became a pioneer in setting up a rigorous Persian literature program in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department. Moayyad became a full professor in 1974. Additionally, he served as a visiting professor at University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Damascus. He retired from UChicago in 2010.

Moayyad is survived by his wife, Ruth, daughters, Shirin and Leyli, and grandson Fabian.