On Jan. 16, McGill held a memorial on the Macdonald campus for Negar Borghei, an Iranian master’s student and a victim of the plane crash near Tehran. The Jan. 8 incident claimed the lives of 176 people on the plane, including two members of the McGill community.
Borghei obtained her first master’s degree in Iran and worked as a dietitian. She hoped to obtain her credentials to practice in Canada, so she enrolled in the human nutrition program at McGill in September 2019 to obtain a second master’s degree, according to Anja Geitmann, Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“Negar’s brother tells me that it has helped the family cope with their loss by seeing how Canada, in general, and McGill in particular share their grief,” Geitmann said. “It is upon the family’s request that we will be taking pictures and video footage today […] in the hope that seeing the footage calms Negar’s family.”
Borghei’s husband, Alvand Sadeghi, was on the plane with her. He was a web developer at ViewFin, a fintech company, and lived in Toronto. Negar travelled back and forth between Montreal and Toronto on the weekends to see him. Also aboard were Alvand’s sister, Sahand, and her young daughter Sophie. During the memorial, Linda Wykes, Director of the School of Human Nutrition recounted her memories of Borghei.
“She was able to influence people through the brightness of her personality,” Wykes said. “She was a leader, an important colleague and a collaborator in many group projects. Negar was a very bright light and we will always remember her.”
Over 100 people attended the memorial, which prompted the organizers to relocate from the MacDonald-Stewart’s faculty lounge to a lecture hall at the last minute. McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier offered her condolences to Borghei’s family, friends, and to the McGill’s Iranian community. The attendees of the memorial were touched when a group of Borghei’s classmates tearfully shared their memories about her. Maureen Rose, Dietetics Credentialing Director, remembers the times spent with Borghei.
“She was […] always with a friendly, welcoming smile,” Rose said. “And I think that was an output sign of the nature of a soul. She was warm, generous, always helping others, able to be a leader but also willing to be a team player. Negar, you are a bright light, and now you are shining somewhere else, but you will always be here, shining.”
After the speeches, the attendees returned to the faculty lounge, where they signed a condolence book that will be sent to Negar’s family. Music was provided by a chamber trio from the Schulich School of Music.
Maryam Razaghi, a PhD candidate in human nutrition, went to the same undergraduate school as Negar. Razaghi was comforted by McGill’s condolence messages and the memorial, and recalled the last time she saw Borghei.
“I felt that McGill cares about us and that we are like a family,” Razaghi said. “[I last saw her] in December at a Winners store, I saw her from a distance and noticed she [was] buying a lot of stuff. I guessed she must be going to Iran and is buying gifts for her family. I regret that I did not talk to her for the very last time.”
Faraz Falsafi, who received his master’s degree in computer science from McGill in 2015, was another victim of the plane crash. Sajjad Ghaemi, a Research officer at the National Research Council of Canada, met Faraz in a machine learning course.
“He loved to travel and to take photographs,” Ghaemi said. “After his graduation from McGill, he worked in Montreal for some time, then moved to Toronto and started working there. I last spoke to him in October; he told me he is going to Iran for the holidays to attend his sister’s wedding ceremony. I still cannot believe he is gone. I sometimes call him or check whether he has sent me a Whatsapp message.”