The Way It Turned Out
Pan Stanford – 2012 – 478 pages
Spanning seven decades, this memoir is an account of the life of Herant Katchadourian on three continents: The Middle East, Europe, and the United States. While the memoir is highly distinctive, the issues the author focuses on have many features that are common with other people’s lives, such as the role of chance and the reconstruction of past events in the light of the present. The book is the account of a fascinating life that is not only interesting to read but instructive by placing the various stages and facets of life in their historical and cultural contexts.
"I was irresistibly sucked into this narrative as soon as I read the first page. The magic alchemy of a childhood in a faraway continent, of family dynamics and rituals that are at once foreign and yet familiar, and the wise, knowing voice of a memoirist looking back on a rich life make for a wonderful read. The breadth of Katchadourian’s expertise as a humanist, physician, scholar, and lover of words makes this volume a gem that informs, entertains, and ultimately delights."
—Abraham Verghese - Author of Cutting for Stone
"I have read many memoirs in a long career but never one of higher quality and personal value than this one. Herant Katchadourian is an authentic citizen of the world, having been exposed to the cultures of Armenia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Finland and the United States—where he spent most of his life. His observations are highly perceptive, and in his professional life he is extraordinarily interdisciplinary—having contributed significantly to human biology, clinical medicine, psychiatry university administration, and philanthropy. He fostered valuable innovations and was a pioneer in the scholarly teaching of human sexuality, reflected both in a great course and the field’s leading textbook. In all of his experiences, he has been a superb teacher and he has much to teach us now as he looks back over the broad and unique sweep of his life in a beautifully written book."
—Prof. David A. Hamburg - President Emeritus, Carnegie Corporation of New York
"A distinguished psychiatrist and educator, Herant Katchadourian has produced a memoir that readers will have difficulty putting down because of its profound psychological and cultural insights into the human condition. The Way It Turned Outtells the story of a talented and passionate Armenian born in what was then northwestern Syria and medically trained at the American University of Beirut, where he would later teach, after gaining advanced medical training in the USA. Eventually he would enjoy a four-decade career as a renowned teacher and senior administrator at Stanford University, followed by a stint in the world of philanthropy. Few can claim to have lived such an interesting life between East and West and to have brought such vital understanding to both."
—Philip S. Khoury - Ford International Professor of History and Associate Provost, MIT
"Beautifully written, alluring in its imagery, compelling in its personal depth, this is a memoir in the tradition of Augustine’s journals: profoundly honest and revealing in its author's exaltations and failings, universal in its aspiration to a life of meaning, and astonishingly helpful to its readers with less engaged and engaging lives."
—Scotty McLennan - Dean for Religious Life, Memorial Church, Stanford University
1 The Legacy of Alexander
2 The Khatchadourians and Nazarians
3 Coming of Age
4 That They May Have Life…
5…And Have It More Abundantly
6 To the Land of Milk and Honey
7 Passing Through the World of Research
8 Home Again
9 The Joy of Teaching
10 Would-Be Administrator
11 Doing Good
12 A Healing Place
Herant Katchadourian’s extraordinary life as a distinguished teacher and administrator has spanned seven decades lived on three continents. In this memoir, Katchadourian masterfully narrates his story from start to finish, bridging his childhood in the fascinating, complex city of Beirut to his later life in the culture of northern California. He calls on his expert knowledge of history to contextualize personal events in his life and brings his training as a psychiatrist to focus on timeless questions such as the role of chance in life and the reconstruction of past events in the light of the present.
A gifted teacher who was nominated seven times as Outstanding Professor and Class Day Speaker during his long career at Stanford University, Katchadourian revels in the joys of storytelling. His talent for pedagogy and his gift for the well-crafted anecdote infuse the book with the breadth of cultural dimensions and the depth of psychological insights. This immensely readable and instructive memoir takes the reader through the unlikely, moving, and often hilarious turns in Katchadourian’s life, showing how The Way it Turned Out is hardly the way anyone would have guessed it to be.