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Iranian students killed in plane crash to get posthumous degrees from Western University

Western University is remembering four graduate students killed when a Ukrainian airliner was shot out of the sky over Iran with posthumous degrees and a scholarship in their honour.

Western University has also announced the creation of a Flight 752 Memorial Graduate Scholarship

Four Iranian students on their way to complete coursework at Western University were killed when their plane was shot down in early January. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Western University is remembering four graduate students killed when a Ukrainian airliner was shot out of the sky over Iran with posthumous degrees and a scholarship in their honour. 

"We want to make sure the memories of these students are kept alive, to honour them as we continue to support our students in their time of need," said Jim Weese, Western's acting vice president of international students.

Hadis Hayatdavoudi, Milad Nahavandi, Ghazal Nourian and Sajedeh Saraeian were killed Jan. 8 when a Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down near Tehran. They were among 176 people killed, 55 of them Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents. 

Posthumous degrees are awarded very rarely at convocation ceremonies, Western University said. 

"These degrees will forever serve as an important memorial to (the students) and their lives, as well as a sombre reminder of the possibilities the world lost that day," said Ken Coley, the dean of engineering at the university. 

Three of the students were PhD candidates in chemistry or engineering, and the fourth, Saraeian, was an incoming masters student in chemical and biochemical engineering. 

"It's part of our way of recognizing their accomplishments to date and our remembrance of them," Weese said. 

The degrees will be awarded at a convocation ceremony that the students' families can attend and that will correspond with when they would have gotten their degrees had they been able to continue their studies, Weese said. 

'No manual for events like these'

The deaths of the students greatly affected their classmates, labmates and professors, as well as other students and those in the Iranian community. There was a large turnout for remembrance events, and many students have visited offices or open spaces to share their grief, Weese said. 

"There is no manual for events like these," Weese said.

"These things happen when you have large institutions like a university and I think what you have to do is take the time to listen, and go to your core values of what's important, and supporting our students has always been a mandate at our institution."

More than half of the 138 passengers destined for Canada on the downed airplane had direct connections to Canadian universities. 

A scholarship is being created for students in full-time master or doctoral programs in engineering or science, Weese added. It will be awarded based on academic achievement and research merit. Preference will be given to Iranian international students. 

 

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