Getting to know IUPUI’s new first lady

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist

IUPUI first lady-select Niloo Paydar grabbed my attention and admiration during our first chat when I learned of her behind-the-scenes role in a critically acclaimed exhibit — one of my favorites — at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Nasser and Niloo Paydar at an IMA opening.

Nasser and Niloo Paydar at an IMA opening.

We were strangers engaged in small talk during the 2013 IUPUI Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner when Paydar shared that she was the IMA curator for “Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt.”

It had been seven years since that awesome exhibit of dozens of magnificent original quilts crafted by the women of Gee’s Bend, Ala., had hung on IMA’s walls, but the thrill of experiencing those works still lingered.

Paydar’s words in a 2006 IMA press release captured their essence perfectly:

“The women of Gee’s Bend have transformed the quilt, a necessity, into a work of art, using patterns that reveal their distinctive styles and innovative designs,” Niloo Paydar, IMA’s curator of textile and fashion arts, said. “With their bright colors, bold patterns, and the unexpected variations in the compositions, Gee’s Bend quilts are considered outstanding examples of contemporary American art.”

The Gee's Bend exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2006. Niloo Paydar curated this exhibit. Photo courtesy of IMA.

The Gee’s Bend exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2006. Niloo Paydar curated this exhibit. Photo courtesy of IMA.

On Aug. 16, Paydar begins her work as first lady when her husband, Nasser Paydar, IUPUI executive vice chancellor and former chancellor of IU East, takes the helm as IUPUI chancellor.

“I’ve had the opportunity to experience life as a campus leader’s spouse,” Niloo Paydar said. “However, I realize in this new role, I will have many more opportunities to spend time at IUPUI to interact with students and meet members of the community.”

May those “many more opportunities” add to the beauty of the outstanding work of art known as the IUPUI campus.

Here’s a short Q&A interview as a starter:

IUPUIntelligence: Tell me something that you would like people to know about your personal and/or family life. And then talk about your professional life over the past decade and whether you plan to continue with that or make some changes as your spouse becomes chancellor.

Niloo Paydar (left) and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright at the opening of "Read My Pins," the exhibition of jewelry from Albright's personal collection, at the IMA in 2010.

Niloo Paydar (left) and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright at the opening of “Read My Pins,” the exhibition of jewelry from Albright’s personal collection, at the IMA in 2010. Photo courtesy of IMA.

Paydar: Nasser and I met while students at Syracuse University and have been married for 36 years. We have two sons, both of whom are in college. We moved to Indianapolis in 1985, and Indy is our home; we love the city and our community. I have been working at the Indianapolis Museum of Art as curator of textiles and fashion arts since 1986. I love my job and intend to continue at the IMA.  Additionally, of course, I am eager to support IUPUI alongside my husband.

IUPUIntelligence: Are there any specific responsibilities or situations that you are really looking forward to handling as a higher-ed first lady?

Paydar: I look forward to helping any way I can to promote IUPUI students’ success. IUPUI is a great asset to our community and a very comprehensive campus. Given that most of IUPUI’s graduates remain in Central Indiana, the campus is a significant driver for economic development and our community’s quality of life. The success of IUPUI students is vital to our community.

IUPUIntelligence: What will provide the most fun in your new role?

The Paydars (right) at the July 7, 2015, open house held in their honor.

The Paydars (right) at the July 7, 2015, open house held in their honor.

Paydar: I’m very excited about this opportunity! Through Nasser’s 30 years as an IUPUI faculty member and, more recently, a campus leader, I have had the opportunity to meet many faculty and staff on campus. In my new role, I look forward to meeting with many more people and groups, and especially interacting with IUPUI students.

IUPUIntelligence: If you could ask the outgoing first lady for advice that would help you make the transition easier, what would you like to ask?

Paydar: I truly admire Sandra Petronio for her numerous accomplishments and for her outstanding service as IUPUI first lady. I look forward to any advice she has for me as I prepare to support the campus and the chancellor in the years ahead.

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