A Celebration of Education and Hard Work
A Celebration of Education and Hard Work
The Legacy of Satenig Der Torosian at AUA
Satenig Der Torosian, who later went as Jane Aaron Payne, was a strong, successful woman who always advocated for the importance of education. Though she sadly passed away in January of 2023, during her life, she made a commitment to the American University of Armenia (AUA) to support students through a generous gift that would be disbursed after her passing.
Jane was born Satenig Der Torosian on October 26, 1938 in Fresno, CA. The daughter of Armenian immigrants, she was raised on her family ranch with her eight siblings. Her father, Nazaret Der Torosian, was born in 1891 in Yozgat, Turkey; most of his family members were lost in the Armenian Genocide. Her mother, Ashken Hamamjian, was born in 1902 in Harpoot (Kharpert), and immigrated with several of her family members to California.
She was the eighth of nine children. Her mother passed away when she was three, so she grew up closely guided by her brothers and sisters. With a very traditional father, and tough love from her older siblings, Jane grew up very independent and motivated.
When Jane met Bill Aaron, they fell in love and got married. Soon after giving birth to their three sons, Chris, Tom, and Larry, they relocated to Kentucky to be closer to her husband’s family. Jane was the first from her family to move from the Fresno area. In a new state, they began to set down roots, but she was always proud of her Armenian heritage and kept up with any news related to her parents’ homeland.
In addition to her deep admiration for her family, Jane also regarded work and education very highly, and instilled these values in her children, and later, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She worked for Omico Plastics in Owensboro, KY for over 35 years as a Quality Control Manager and was also a mentor to younger team members in the company. She was a kind and caring individual, and generous in providing her tough love. She was very encouraging to those closest to her, and made sure they knew she cared for them. Her sons express how she would congratulate everyone for their achievements, especially in education, and always offer her help, financially, physically, or spiritually.
When Jane’s husband Bill passed away, “Jane became the matriarch and guiding light for her family, always encouraging education,” her son Tom recalls. She was proud that all her children and grandchildren received a college education.
Widowed for almost 10 years, Jane later remarried to Tom Payne, and grew her family with her two step-sons, Mark and Perry, step-daughter, Paula, and Tom Payne’s extensive family in Owensboro and beyond. “She loved everything about being in a big and growing family, but most of all, she loved helping her family members and community,” says Chris, adding that “through her actions, we have seen and felt the power of mom paying it forward.” Upon her retirement, Jane volunteered in her community, transporting cancer patients and also providing tax preparation assistance through the AARP Foundation Tax-Assist program.
Her philanthropic spirit coupled with her love for education and Armenia prompted her to support AUA. “I knew she was trying to connect with Armenia and help out in any way she could,” remarks her son Tom, as he recalls the conversation his mother had with him and his brothers in 2012 about giving to AUA.
In September 2018, Jane visited Armenia for the first time with her son Chris and his wife Christie. While there, she visited numerous cultural and historical sites and enjoyed learning more about her Armenian heritage. Chris fondly shares:
"‘My people!’ Mom said when we stepped into the Republic Square of Yerevan. She was so excited and could not get enough of the open markets where all the people were. Often, she would say softly as we toured museums, ‘Just like Papa described it.’
I believe she enjoyed the extended drives through the countryside the best. In some parts, the countryside was so similar to central California, where Mom was raised. Mom always silently looked out the window staring at the rows of vineyards and apricot trees, Mount Ararat, brown rolling hills in the background, and Armenia. ‘Just like Papa said.’”
Over a decade ago, Jane met with representatives from the AUA Office of Development to designate the University as a beneficiary of her trust. Recently, with her passing, the trust paid out a generous amount to the University, just as she had wished, in an effort to ensure her legacy will carry on and make a positive impact on AUA students.
Her son Larry shares, “Mom wanted her children and grandchildren to know our people (Armenians) are intelligent and vibrant. Our culture is of great history which to this day carries on throughout the world by the descendants of Armenia. Mom's vision was that her heritage would live on and that Armenia would one day take claim for its greatness and its people could witness the beauty of all Armenia.”
In loving memory, Jane’s son Chris concludes, “Her numerous kind acts will continue to help her family into the future — the ultimate measure of a life well lived.”
To add to the initial planned gift, Jane’s children have decided to increase the contribution and establish the Satenig Der Torosian Scholarship Fund at AUA to ensure that her legacy carries on at the University empowering many students with financial needs and providing them with the gift of education. To learn more about planned giving, visit: https://philanthropy.aua.am/legacygiving/