Queen’s launching memorial fund in honour of Iranian plane crash victims

A photo of Amir Moradi surrounded by flowers at the Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 vigil for the Queen’s student who lost his life in the Ukrainian Airlines crash in Iran. Photo by Cris Vilela.

After 176 people lost their lives when their plane was shot down near Tehran, Iran, Queen’s University is joining universities across the country in creating student scholarship funds to ensure those lost in the tragedy are not forgotten.

Queen’s University’s Faculty of Arts and Science student, Amir Moradi, was among those killed in the tragedy, and the fund here in Kingston – the Iranian Memorial Scholarship Fund – will serve to honour Moradi, along with the many other victims of the crash.

“This tragic loss was a blow to the academic community and to Canada,” Principal Patrick Deane said in a statement. “But, in this time of crisis, we are coming together to heal and cope.”

Queen’s Vice-Principal (Advancement), Karen Bertrand, expanded on that sentiment on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, speaking with Kingstonist at Summerhill on Queen’s Campus.

“Queen’s announced earlier today was the establishment of a scholarship fund in memory of Amir, who was our third-year student who lost his life on the Ukrainian Airlines tragedy, as well as the other individuals who lost their lives in that accident,” Bertrand said. “It is part of a broader collaboration with universities across Canada, many of which are still sorting out who will be participating, but many of the universities across Canada who were directly impacted by the tragedy are doing something similar so that, as an academic community, we are coming together to do something.”

The plane crash had a huge impact on post-secondary institutions across the country, as many victims were university students, faculty members, and alumni. Queen’s is one of several universities launching funds in the victims’ memory, and the Iranian Student Memorial Scholarship Fund will provide support to international students from Iran in financial need. The university will match all donations up to $250,000. On the same day, the Premier of Ontario also announced the creation of a special scholarship fund in memory of each victim.

Bertrand explained that, while it will depend on the amount of funds raised, the university hopes to raise sufficient funds so that it can be endowed so that it exists in an enduring way in perpetuity.

“As you know, there were a number of universities across the country that were directly impacted by the tragedy. The reality is that this particular effort is not going to replace those individuals, and it’s not going to replace the promise that was lost when that plane went down,” she expressed, noting that the crash was, indeed, a Canadian tragedy.

“What it will do, however, is send two very important messages. One is that Amir and the other individuals that were on that plane will not be forgotten,” Bertrand continued. “The second message that it will send is that, in the future, Iranian students will be welcome here at Queen’s and at other universities across Canada, and that they will be able to access support to study here.”

Since the Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 plane crash, there has been an outpouring of both grief and comradery. On Friday, Jan. 10, hundreds of students, faculty, and other Queen’s community members came together for a vigil in memory of Moradi. The university hopes that, in creating the Iranian Memorial Scholarship Fund, all those impacted – both directly and indirectly, will have a means to both honour Moradi and the other lives lost in the tragedy, and support future Iranian students coming to Canada to study.

“This was very definitely a Canadian tragedy, and this is an effort to fundraise from anybody, frankly, whether they were directly impacted, or they knew any of the individuals on that plane, or the people who knew them,” Bertrand said. “We hope, fundamentally, that in this case, people that are also connected to Queen’s might consider making a gift to ensure that what happened is not forgotten and that something good comes out of this situation.”

Those looking to donate to The Iranian Student Memorial Scholarship Fund can visit the Give to Queen’s website here.

With files from Cris Vilela.

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