SFU creates memorial scholarship to honour victims of Flight 752
At a Christmas party in 2019, Mahda Jahromi found himself chatting with Ardalan Hamidi, one of his wife’s colleagues. Two weeks later, he heard the news that the man and his family were among the 176 people killed when a civilian Boeing 737 was shot down near Tehran.
“He and all of his family went away in a second,” says Jahromi, a lecturer at SFU’s School of Sustainable Energy Engineering. “I still get choked up when I think about how similar each one of the victims were to people like myself and my family. A lot of them were young, educated immigrants with families and so many hopes and dreams; lives to live.”
On Jan. 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed after it was hit by a pair of missiles fired by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Of the 176 people on that flight, 63 were Canadian and many had direct ties to Canadian universities – students, alumni or faculty who had travelled to Iran to visit their families and loved ones during the holiday break. The tragedy is a reminder to us of how Canadian universities benefit from the contributions of those who come to Canada from around the world.
The weeks leading to and following the tragedy were a stressful and traumatic time for many Iranian-Canadians. After the word of the crash was out, many families scrambled to get news and find out who was on the plane. It was a sad and very trying time for many. Despite individual ceremonies at the time, a group of academics wanted a collective memorial that included members and leaders of B.C. educational institutes, government officials and community members.
“We wanted to acknowledge our lost colleagues, our students, our neighbours and friends, and share our sorrow with their families,” says Jahromi.
Their efforts in gathering support snowballed with the help of some prominent Iranian-Canadians like the Eshghi brothers, executives of the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation. In a meeting with the foundation, the Eshghi brothers agreed to generously donate to UBC, SFU and other universities for the creation of scholarships in the name of the victims.
Of the $30,000 gift to SFU, $20,000 is planned to support the scholarship and $10,000 will match additional donations.
“We supported these memorial scholarships so that the 176 innocent lives lost in this tragedy on January 8 last year will not be forgotten,” says Hamid Eshghi, president of the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation. “We hope the SFU memorial scholarship will live on for many years so the recipients can carry on in the footsteps of and, in memory of, those lost.”
In addition to the SFU scholarship, the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation has supported other Flight 752 memorial funds including the UBC Iranian Memorial fund and the Parya Trillium Scholarship fund in Toronto.
“We encourage other Canadians and members of the Iranian community to support the SFU Flight 752 Memorial Scholarship or one of the many others to help celebrate and honour the many brilliant lives lost.”
The scholarship was originally set to be announced at the planned memorial in 2020, which was scheduled a week before Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Expected guests included B.C. Premier John Horgan, the presidents of four B.C. post-secondary institutions, academics from across the province, Persian, Ukrainian and Afghan community representatives, choir and music ensembles and more importantly family members of the Flight 752 victims.
However, due to the emergence of COVID-19, the event was cancelled last minute for the safety of the community. The announcement of the scholarship was postponed to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.
“I want to thank the Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation for its leadership and support for the Flight 752 Memorial Scholarship,” says Joy Johnson, SFU president. “SFU and universities across Canada continue to grieve the loss of our colleagues and community members. This scholarship is a fitting tribute to those lost as it enables talented students to realize their dreams of a university education and build a brighter future for us all.”