U of T recently announced the launch of the Iranian Student Memorial Scholarship Fund in honour of those who tragically lost their lives on the Ukraine International Airlines’ flight PS752 near Tehran, Iran earlier this month. U of T is currently accepting donations, which will be matched by the university at three dollars to every dollar donated for the first $250,000, and dollar-for-dollar beyond the $250,000 threshold.
The needs-based scholarship will be managed by U of T’s enrollment services and will be made available to both graduate and undergraduate students from Iran, or students of any background in Iranian studies at U of T.
Of the flight’s 176 passengers and crew, 138 people with ties to Canada were killed when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard mistook the plane for an enemy aircraft, according to Iranian officials. This incident happened amidst heightened tensions with the US, following the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani. Eight members of the U of T community — six of which were students — were among the victims of the crash.
The scholarship was created in collaboration with David Palmer, U of T’s Vice-President, Advancement; Rahim Rezaie, Associate Director of the International Virtual Engineering Student Teams initiative at the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering; and Mehrdad Hariri, CEO and president of the Canadian Science Policy Centre.
“It really came out of desire to channel in a positive and forward looking way, so I thought that creating a memorial fund to support future students would be a fitting way to honour the legacy of those who perished,” Rezaie commented in an interview with The Varsity.
“I think it’s a tremendous testament to their commitment [and] their desire to contribute and to keep the legacy of our students and others…alive and augment [that] in a practical way.”
The scholarship is a welcome addition to a multi-campus commitment to remembering the lives lost. “It’s a very good opportunity for the Iranians and Canadians, and Canadian culture and Iranian culture to cooperate [and] get closer,” noted Vice-President of the UTSC Iranian Students’ Organization (ISO) Caspian Forouhar.
The ISO held a vigil for the community on January 9, where the names of the U of T students on the passenger manifest were read aloud and condolence banners were signed.
UTSG also saw a memorial service held at the Multi-Faith Centre by the Iranian Association at the University of Toronto the next evening, which was attended by President Meric Gertler and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
A memorial organized by Tigran, an independent Iranian cultural organization, followed both of these events and was attended by politicians from multiple levels of government, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Most recently, Gertler invited the U of T community to participate in a moment of silence with other Canadian universities on January 15. In a previous statement released shortly after the crash, Gertler commented on the situation: “I want to say how deeply saddened we are, and how concerned we are for the families and friends of those who lost their lives.”
He also encouraged students “to seek out the relevant services available on our campuses” through helplines and 24-hour on-campus counselling services.
“I must thank the University of Toronto for all it offered to us, and I can’t say anything but thank you. We really appreciate what they gave us,” said Forouhar. “[U of T] helped other Iranian student associations that are in other campuses to hold vigils even bigger and even larger in content, so the other associations could invite the families of the people that were lost in the crash, and so I can’t say anything but thank you.”