Sean, a U.S. refugee, appreciates opportunities
By CASSIE MCKEE
Four Points News
About a decade ago, Sean and Alison Ziari chose to move their family to Four Points, a place they live, work and volunteer.
Sean, 50, was recently appointed as the new chairman of the board for the West Austin Chamber of Commerce. He is also the president of the board for the Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation.
Alison is a pediatrician with Austin Regional Clinic and serves as Chief of the Department of Pediatrics. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Texas Pediatric Society.
Sean says he is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given. At the age of 13, he came to the United States as a refugee from Iran. It was 1980 and his family was escaping religious persecution. They settled in Round Rock.
“I believe America is still one of the greatest countries in the world and a destination for people around the world who are looking to escape tyranny and persecution,” he said.
Sean met Alison while playing tennis during their college years at University of Texas at Arlington. It was a quick courtship. They dated for three months, got engaged and little over a year later they were married. They have been married for 26 years.
Alison, 48, grew up in the Dallas area and said she is passionate about the children she helps as a pediatrician.
“I love helping my patients grow and develop into healthy and happy adults,” she said.
The Ziaris have three daughters. Their oldest daughter, Audrey, is a sophomore at Texas State University majoring in psychology. Their middle daughter, Emma, is a junior at Vandegrift High School and stays busy with her babysitting business and helping with her younger sister. Their youngest is Laila, a fourth grader at River Place Elementary. She is a swimmer and gymnast and is about to start soccer.
After getting married, Sean and Alison lived in San Antonio and Houston while Alison finished her medical education. She began her practice in Corsicana but, as their family grew, they decided to move back to the Austin area to be closer to family.
Both say the Leander ISD schools were a major factor in their decision to move to Four Points.
“After moving around with Alison’s educational pursuits, it was good to get back home,” Sean said. “We wanted to be in Austin but also Leander school district, so the Four Points area was perfect for us.”
Sean studied biomedical research in college and is a former airline pilot. He now works as a financial services professional with New York Life.
“I work with individuals, families and small business owners to help them with insurance and financial products,” he said. “I enjoy working with people to help them solve financial problems.”
As someone who immigrated from another country, Sean said he has watched the political climate change over the past two decades due to terrorist attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recessions.
“In times of such anxiety and uncertainty, we often search for scapegoats and these days that seems to be immigrants,” he said. “Although I understand the backlash and the protectionist mood of the new administration, it is unfortunate.”
He said he is troubled by the temporary ban against refugees from countries like Iran.
“The truth is that if a ban like this occurred at the time my family was escaping from Iran, I never would have received my education, I never would have met my lovely wife or had my wonderful family and would not have had the opportunity to contribute to my Four Points community,” he said.
Sean said he is looking forward to his new role as chairman of the West Austin Chamber.
“West Austin Chamber is at a pivotal time of our expansion phase,” he said. “We not only added new territories but are expanding our membership to a level not seen before.”
Both Sean and Alison say they are most passionate about their family. In their free time, they enjoy playing card games at home and traveling together on family vacations. Keeping track of everyone’s busy schedules can sometimes be a challenge.
“Communication between the entire family is crucial for managing what needs to get done,” said Alison.
To stay connected, she said they rely on group texts and always finding time for hugs.