Sac State instructor remembered at pinning ceremony

Speech was given in memory of Clay Abajian at School of Nursing’s graduation ceremony


Francina Sanchez - The State Hornet

Annie Mantsch reads an in memoriam speech in honor of nursing instructor Clay Abajian at Sacramento State’s School of Nursing pinning ceremony Thursday in the University Union Ballroom. Abajian was one of two fatalities in a Nov. 15 plane crash in Redding, California.

Margherita Beale, managing editor

There was a notable absence as graduating nursing students gathered Thursday in the University Union Ballroom for Sacramento State’s School of Nursing pinning ceremony.

Nursing pins are worn by nurses to identify the nursing school from which they graduated and are traditionally presented at a pinning ceremony. The pins are aimed to connect each new nurse to every nurse who has come before.

During the ceremony, nursing student Annie Mantsch gave an in memoriam speech dedicated to Sac State nursing instructor Clay Abajian, who was supposed to pin her. She said that although he was not there in person, she knew that he was there in spirit, watching over her and cheering her on.

M C Mary-Carol Abajian

If you would like to honor my awesome husband please consider giving to the “Clay Abajian Memorial Nursing Fund” at

Abajian, 64, was one of two fatalities in the Nov. 15 crash of a Cessna 182K Skylane in Redding, California. Abajian was volunteering for an Angel Flight to transport a patient in need of medical attention.

“He was one of the most selfless, caring people I have ever met,” Mantsch said during the in memoriam speech. “There wasn’t a single day that he did not show up without a smile on his face and ready to crack jokes and tease his victim of choice for that day.”

According to Mary-Carol Abajian, Abajian’s wife, the patient was safely delivered. The crash occurred shortly after the plane left Redding and Abajian and the pilot died on impact, she said.

“It basically exemplifies what kind of person he was,” nursing student Ivan Silva Moto said at the ceremony. “At the very moment he passed away he was helping people.”

Abajian’s lifelong career in nursing began as a Sac State School of Nursing graduate in 1985. In the years following, he worked at the American Medical Response, the UC Davis Medical Center and ultimately, Sac State, Mary-Carol said.

“He was one of those faculty members that I could ask him to teach anything and he would do it,”  said Tanya Altmann, chair of the Sac State School of Nursing. “Always accommodating. Always happy.”

Mary-Carol, who graduated from Sac State in 1989 and returned for her teaching credential in 1993, says Abajian liked shooting guns, playing golf and drinking scotch, the older the better. He liked to give back to the community and share his knowledge, she said.

“He was just fun to hang out with,” Mary-Carol said. “Whatever we did, he was just a fun person to be with.”

The couple would have celebrated their 23-year anniversary next Tuesday.

Mary-Carol says nursing is not the only way in which Abajian showed his passion for helping others. He loved audio technology and would give audio support to Ponderosa High School, doing sound for band and choir performances.

The high school’s marching band will perform an arrangement for his service Saturday.

“I know there’s a bunch of kids who know how to do sound now and a bunch of nurses who look up to him,” Mary-Carol said. “My son has now inherited his sound system and went to set up for the last concert that Clay was supposed to do.”

According to Altmann, a memorial fund has been established in Abajian’s honor. If it reaches $2,500, it will become an official Sac State School of Nursing scholarship fund in his name.

In lieu of flowers, Altmann said those interested can donate to the fund here.

“I’m very proud of him but I wish he was still here,” Mary-Carol said. “That would be better.”

A service will be held at Faith Episcopal Church in Cameron Park 11 a.m. Saturday. Mary-Carol said anyone is welcome to come.

Francina Sanchez contributed to this report.