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Concordia University creates scholarship fund in honour of Iran plane crash victims

Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani are among those who were killed in a plane crash outside of Tehran, Iran on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.
Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani are among those who were killed in a plane crash outside of Tehran, Iran on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Courtesy of Ali Dolatabadi

Concordia University announced the launch of a memorial scholarship fund to honour the memory of those who perished aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was shot down in Iran on Jan. 8, just outside Tehran.

Among the 176 people killed were 57 Canadian citizens and 138 people who were connecting to Canada via Kyiv.

Many were students and academics returning to Canada after a December break, including two recent graduates from Concordia University, Siavash Ghafouri-Azar and Sara Mamani.

READ MORE: Iran doesn’t have experts to analyze black boxes from plane crash, Champagne says

The couple, both of whom held Master’s degrees in science, had returned to Iran over the winter break to celebrate their wedding. They died on their return trip home to Canada.

Concordia says the fund was established to “honour the memory of those who died by helping incoming Iranian students who choose to pursue their education at Concordia.”

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During a candlelight vigil in January to commemorate the victims, Saman Abolfathi, a student at Concordia University and vice-president external of the Iranian student’s association, spoke to Global News of the many hurdles facing students hoping to make a new life in Canada.

“We’ve been through a lot to come here; every student here needs to have a high GPA, learn English and learn French,” he said, not to mention the struggles to pay rent and university fees.

The university recognizes the hardships international students must often overcome and hopes the fund “will help relieve some of their stress, and encourage the next generation of students to follow their dreams.”

READ MORE: Montrealers commemorate Iran plane crash victims

So far, Concordia has raised $75,000 for the initiative, thanks in no small part to alumna Gina Cody, who helped kick-start the fund with a $50,000 donation.

In 2018, Cody made a historic $15-million donation to the school’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.

To thank Cody for her generous gift, the engineering faculty was renamed the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

First for Canada: Concordia names engineering school after woman
First for Canada: Concordia names engineering school after woman

Cody, a business leader, engineer and philanthropist, arrived in Canada from Iran in 1979, earning a PhD in building engineering — the first woman to do so at Concordia.

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She said her heart broke upon learning of the crash and hopes other Concordians will follow her lead and help grow the fund.

Fundraising efforts are expected to continue for several months. University advancement has yet to determine whether the $5,000 scholarships will be renewable or a one-time support.

Students will be selected through Concordia’s financial aid and awards office in the upcoming months.