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Iranian student honoured to be first recipient of memorial scholarship for plane crash victims

Shayan Shirzadian is the first first recipient of the Iranian Students Memorial Scholarship - Remembering Flight PS752.

It was just a casual conversation with a fellow UWindsor graduate student, but one Shayan Shirzadian will always remember.

He and engineering doctoral candidate Hamidreza Setareh Kokab, both international students, talked about living in Canada. Setareh Kokab was happy to offer advice.

“My overall feeling from our conversation was that I was joining a community with great people who love to help,” Shirzadian says. “It left an impression on me.”

A month later, Shirzadian was shocked to learn Setareh Kokab’s life was taken in a plane crash in Iran while returning to campus for the winter semester. The incident claimed the lives of all 176 on board, including four other members of UWindsor’s community — engineering doctoral candidates Pedram Jadidi and Zahra Naghibi and her spouse Mohammad Abbaspour Ghadi and biology research assistant Samira Bashiri.

They were caring friends and talented researchers who were on the cusp of promising careers. Countless stories emerged as the campus community mourned such a significant loss.

An immediate outpouring of support from the UWindsor community and general public followed to establish the Iranian Students Memorial Scholarship - Remembering Flight PS752, a graduate scholarship that will annually support two international students conducting vital research in the Faculties of Engineering and Science.

“It is my honor to be the first recipient of this scholarship and I hope I can continue their dreams of making the world a better place to live in,” says Shirzadian, a MASc student. “This scholarship is important to me because it helps keep alive the memory of our friends and shows the world that we will never forget them.”

As a research assistant in the Tribology of Materials Research Centre, Shirzadian contributes to technologies that benefit the aerospace and automotive sectors through the reduction of environmentally hazardous lubricants and by making metal forming operations more efficient and environmentally friendly. His dream is to launch his engineering career in the auto industry.

Thanks to a $15,000 top-off from the University of Windsor Alumni Association, the University of Windsor more than doubled its goal in permanently endowing the scholarship. Of the $50,000 raised, nearly 90 per cent of donations came from UWindsor faculty and staff. Engineering professor Shervin Erfani inspired others to give by offering a matching gift donation of $10,000 on Giving Tuesday in December 2020 just shy of the one-year anniversary of the plane crash. Fellow students also contributed through UWindsor’s Graduate Student Society, pledging an additional $10,000.

The university partnered with the Iranian community in Windsor and the City of Windsor to honour the victims by creating a memorial site on the west end of the city’s riverfront not far from campus. The commemorative site inclu­desplaques, benches and trees. 

Donations to the memorial fund can still be made by credit card online at uwindsor.ca/supportuwindsor/remembering-flight-ps752 or by contacting Katie Mazzuca, the Faculty of Engineering’s major gift officer, at 519-253-3000, ext. 5959 or katie.mazzuca@uwindsor.ca