Vaughn Lee Shahinian

NO. 17525  •   14 January 1928 - 18 September 1997

Died in Los Altos, CA.
Interred in the hills of Sierra Nevada.


TO KNOW VAUGHN LEE SHAHINIAN was to love him. This vibrant young man from the sun burnt hills of the San Joaquin Valley, CA, was ready for anything and everything with a beaming smile and ready wit. Like so many of our class, Vaughn joined the Army in 1945 after high school graduation, with hopes of earning an appointment to USMA. For Vaughn, this was prompted by the recommendation of a high school counselor.

With other future members of the Class of '50, Vaughn boarded a troop train at Union Station in Los Angeles and headed for a USMA preparatory assignment to a New England college. Always quick to adapt to his environment, Vaughn found time to enjoy the beauties of New England - scenic and otherwise. Vaughn’s appointment to West Point came through, and he entered the Academy in July 1946.

Academics came easily for Vaughn. He studied but was not a grind, and he always was ready to help others less inclined. Vaughn’s ability and determination showed not only in academics but also in sports and other activities. Vaughn had a habit of making hard things seem fun and easy - even picking up rocks off the "new golf course" during Beast Barracks. Later, as B-2's First Sergeant during our First Class year, he made all of us stand tall. Vaughn was a skilled camera enthusiast and gladly introduced many of us to the joys of photography and the creativity possible in the darkroom. A bright moment during Vaughn’s cadet years was noting his father's great pride when his father saw him in cadet gray, as one of the Corps of Cadets.

Conscientious, but not to a fault, Vaughn found pleasure in life, often livening things up for the rest of us within those gray walls. Quick to gather a boodle session and envied for always 'dragging pro, Vaughn was there with the best of them, yet respected enough by his companymates to be their Duty Committee representative. Vaugn’s patience, though, was sometimes stretched to limits because his unmusical roommates could not seem to grasp the simplicity of playing "My Dog Has Fleas" on a ukulele.

Perhaps Vaugn’s friendly smile and demeanor came from the warmth and sunny hills of his native California. Nevertheless, he accepted the faults of others, and never uttered a word of disapproval to those of us who tried to beat the system with short cuts. His sharp wit always enlivened discussions and seemed to set things right. During branch selection, when a roommate noted for occasional forgetfulness considered the Air Force as a choice, Vaughn questioned how one so absent minded could fly a plane. His roommate selected Infantry, and was the better for it.

Ranking in the upper third of the class, Vaughn easily got his choice of assignment in the recently formed Air Force. Part of his graduation leave was passed in a grand tour of Europe with other classmates. After graduation leave, he reported to flight school at Perrin AFB, TX, but, unfortunately, learned that he and the airplane were not quite compatible.Though disappointed, Vaughn, with his typical optimism and perseverance, continued in the non-flying element of the Air Force.

After Airbome Electronics training at Keesler AFB, he served two years at Clark Field in the Philippines as the squadron electronics officer. His final duty was as armament electronics officer for a fighter-interceptor squadron stationed in England. Vaughn resigned as a captain in 1956.

With his usual positive determination, Vaughn put his grasp of science and math to work. He successfully completed a two-year program for a master's degree in structural engineering at Stanford University in 1958, the same year he married Barbara Baird.

In the years that followed, Vaughn worked as a civil engineer until he founded his own company - Vaughn Shahinian Associates - a firm involved in civil and structural engineering projects throughout California and the western U.S.

Vaughn pursued many interests. He was an accomplished skier and even kept up with Barbara's tennis game. At West Point, Vaughn often talked about the royal sport of kings – falconry - he had practiced as a young lad in California. Now, in the great expanse of the California hills, Vaughn and Barbara practiced the great sport with their trained peregrine and goshawks for a number of years. Interestingly, falconry is a sport pre-historic in origin and dating back to Vaughn's ancestors - the ancient kings of Persia. Indeed, Shahinian is Armenian for "king of kings." Though proud of his ancestry, Vaughn never spoke of royalty, although his life certainly reflected well on his noble heritage.

Vaughn’s sudden illness and passing was a shock to his family. Barbara, his wife of 39 years; his sister, Paula Kuklinski; and his uncle, Lee Shahinian, survive him.

- Roommates Vernon A. Quarstein and Dick Steuart