Local author Armen Bacon will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest alumni honor given, at the annual Top Dog Award Gala for her dedication to the community and professional successes.
Bacon, who has authored two books, writes columns for The Fresno Bee and serves on the University Advisory Board as a community member, the Kremen School Alumni Association’s board and the College of Arts and Humanities advisory board, will be recognized Oct. 9 at the Save Mart Center along with other distinguished Fresno State alumni.
“It was a very surreal moment for me when I received the phone call,” said Bacon. “At first I was shocked, then I transitioned to being very humbled, and then I sat and reveled in the moment, and I told myself Fresno State has always been this magical place for me.”
Bacon grew up in southeast Fresno in a humble Armenian home.
To her school was everything.
“When I entered the campus not only did I have a fantastic experience with professors and the classes I took, but I also had an opportunity through the international program to study in Europe,” said Bacon.
Little did she know, her decision to study in France would have a major impact on her future career.
After graduating from Fresno State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, her love for school led her to choose a career in education.
Bacon worked in Fresno Unified for three years and was invited to work at the Fresno County Office of Education for the superintendent of schools as a spokeswoman for education. She had the responsibility of being the liaison between the Fresno school system and the Mediterranean Association of International Schools for two decades.
“Every year I would go to either Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Greece or some foreign country to help establish relationships with international schools,” said Bacon. “Had it not been for that first study-abroad program, where I really got to experience to travel the world as a senior at Fresno State, I probably would have said ‘No thank you’.”
Bacon left her career at the County Office of Education, where she mostly wrote for other people, to share her own voice with the community. At the age of 55, Bacon returned to Fresno State as part as the Summer Arts Program. For four summers, she studied the craft of writing, which she said was life changing for her.
“I remember my professor saying, ‘Sit up close. Don’t be afraid of raising your hand. Never be afraid of making a fool out of yourself’,”said Bacon. “Then he looked at me and said, ‘Fear is what stops us, not the lack of latent,’ and that’s a lesson for students of all ages.”
Bacon went on to publish her first book about the worst day of her life – the day she lost her son.
“It was really Fresno State that helped build that confidence and give me permission to let that voice out and to share not only the good aspects of my life but also the worst moments,” said Bacon. “It was my hope in writing my first book that perhaps the worst day of my life could have been the catalyst for the greatest work I would ever do and a gift that I could give to the community for sharing my story.”
To Bacon, Fresno State was the place she went when she needed a breath of inspiration.
“Nobody knows this, but there are two spots on campus, when I’m writing on deadline, they are my hideouts,” said Bacon. “One is in the new library because it’s just so beautiful. The other is at the Kremen School right in front of the teacher honor wall because I feel like there are so many voices of excellence that are represented on that wall.”
Bacon usually sits near the wall with her notebook on the ground. Some of her best works have come during those moments on campus, she said.
Two years after writing her first book, she published her second with The Press at Fresno State, the university’s in-house press.
“Honestly, on a very personal level this university has always been a lifeline for me. It has been an amazing guiding force through many ages and stages of my life,” Bacon said.“The university has given me so much, so to be receiving this honor is the frosting on the cake because they’ve really been my North Star since the time I was 18.”
Bacon is now working on her third book. The working title is “Daring to Breathe.” The book is about life after death for a parent who has lost a child and sharing the good, bad and ugly part of the journey. Bacon will also incorporate people’s survival stories she and her co-author collected through her time lecturing about her books.
“Receiving this award is a huge honor, but it’s also a vitamin infusion of more inspiration, more determination to continue to grow and become more of myself,” said Bacon. “It’s truly the highest honor that I have received, and I am so grateful and humbled to be on the receiving end. And I hope that I can live up to the expectations.”