Degrees, scholarship to honour Flight 752 students

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The families and friends of four Western students whose lives were cut short in the downing of Ukraine International Flight PS752 will not only see their loved ones’ academic careers celebrated, but ambitions live on in opportunities for future students.

“We want to make sure the memories of these students are kept alive – honour them as we continue to support our students in their time of need,” said Jim Weese, Acting Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (International).

On Friday, the Western community gathered in the Atrium of the International and Graduate Affairs Building to mark the 40th day since the downing of Flight 752. Marking the 40th day after death is an important custom in Persian culture.

At the student-led event, Western announced that the four students Hadis Hayatdavoudi, a PhD candidate in Chemistry; Milad Nahavandi, a PhD candidate in Chemical & Biochemical Engineering; Ghazal Nourian, a PhD candidate in Mechanical & Materials Engineering; and Sajedeh Saraeian, an incoming master’s student in Chemical & Biochemical Engineering, will be granted posthumous degrees at Convocation.

While rare, posthumous degrees may be granted at a Convocation ceremony contingent on approval by the dean, according to university policy.

“It is admittedly small solace to all of us who care for her, but it is important to provide a lasting record of Hadis’ passion for her discipline, hard work, accomplishments and, most importantly, her hope for the future,” said Matt Davison, Faculty of Science Dean.

Ken Coley, Faculty of Engineering Dean, echoed those same sentiments.

“We are accustomed to the completion of a degree being the beginning of a student’s journey. The possibilities are never more endless than in that moment,” he said. “For Milad, Ghazal, and Sajedeh, these degrees will forever serve as an important memorial to them and their lives, as well as a sombre reminder of the possibilities the world lost that day.”

Additionally, Western also announced the creation of the Flight 752 Memorial Graduate Scholarship in Engineering and Science. Offered annually, the scholarship will be awarded to a full-time master’s or doctoral student in Engineering or Science and be based on academic achievement and research merit. Preference will be given to an international student from Iran.

The scholarship will forever serve as a tribute to these students and landmark of these days, Weese said.

“There is no manual for events like these. When they happen, you take a deep breath, rally with colleagues and do your best to support each other,” he continued. “Our students have shown such incredible resolve through this. They have shown such leadership, such solidarity with one another. I am proud of our students and our university, in terms of how we have come together to honour the four lives we lost.”

On Jan. 8, Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down near Tehran by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Among the 176 people killed were 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

The downing had a disproportionate impact on postsecondary education across this country, as more than half of the 138 passengers destined for Canada had direct connections to Canadian universities. The list included a large cohort of graduate students, including the four Western students.