Western is honouring a London couple, who were killed along with two other family members in an anti-Muslim attack last month, with scholarships in their names.
The awards will help ensure people remember how Madiha Salman and her husband Salman Afzaal lived – as people who embraced inclusion, valued education and built up their community.
The Madiha Salman Memorial Scholarship in Civil and Environmental Engineering will go each year to a full-time female graduate student enrolled in a doctoral or master’s program within the department of civil and environmental engineering, whose research is focused on environmental engineering.
Madiha earned her master’s in engineering at Western and was working towards her PhD in environmental engineering.
Western awarded Madiha a posthumous doctorate during June’s virtual graduation ceremony.
“As a Muslim, Madiha strongly believed in inclusivity and so this award will be open to students who advocate for inclusion of all races and religions,” a spokesperson for her family said.
Western has also established the Salman Afzaal Memorial Scholarship in Physical Therapy, to be awarded each year to a full-time graduate student enrolled in a doctoral or master’s program in health and rehabilitation sciences. Preference will be given to a student involved in leadership, research and/or innovation in physical therapy.
Salman earned his master’s at Western in 2010 and worked as a physiotherapist in long-term care homes.
Tragedy sparks grief, remembrance
The couple had been walking on a west London sidewalk with their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, their young son and Salman’s mother on the evening of June 6 when they were hit by a truck. London police allege the driver targeted them for being Muslims.
Of the family of five, only their son survived.
The tragedy sparked shock, grief and anger throughout Canada and around the world. Western, London and the nation rallied in support of the family and to condemn Islamophobia. A vigil, an inter-faith memorial walk and their funeral drew tens of thousands of mourners.
Endorsed by the Afzaal and Salman families, the scholarships will offer comfort and commemoration, said Western president Alan Shepard.
“We hope these scholarships will help to carry on the incredibly positive legacies they have left at Western,” Shepard said.
“We want to remember them as they lived: as a devoted family, as Western scholars and researchers, and as caring and well-loved members of the broader community.”
“The faculty of engineering has been shaken to its core by this loss,” said Engineering dean Ken Coley. “All who knew Madiha Salman talk about the light she brought to their world. The scholarships are a fitting way to remember her and her family.”
‘Always spreading kindness’
Madiha Salman and Salman Afzaal arrived in Canada from Pakistan in 2007 determined to make a new life for themselves and their baby daughter.
Friends described the couple as tireless – as people who somehow made time to build a tight-knit family, volunteer in their Muslim community and embed themselves in their children’s school lives while earning professional degrees and credentials.
They were model Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis who were “always there giving and participating in spreading goodness,” relatives said in a statement soon after the attack.
Madiha’s research at Western focused on reversing humans’ impact on natural resources; in particular, discovering new ways to treat contaminated soil and groundwater.
She held prestigious research scholarships and served as a teaching assistant for more than six years during her graduate studies.
Engineering professor Jason Gerhard, who was Madiha’s master’s supervisor, described her as “a sparkling and generous, loving person who treasured education, female advancement, equality and research.”
Salman, meanwhile, was known through the community for his kindness, hospitality and perseverance.
“He was such a happy person, full of hope and so happy to be in Canada,” health sciences professor Dianne Bryant, Salman’s supervisor for his master’s, recalled of him in the days following the attack.
Virtual memorial service for campus community
Western will host and livestream a virtual memorial service – an opportunity to remember, reflect and begin to heal – on Thursday, July 29 from 1 to 2 p.m. Members of the campus community are welcome to attend. Information on accessing the livestream of the memorial will be shared in the coming days.