Graduate student Usamah Ansari mourned by the York community

Members of the York community are mourning the loss of 23-year-old graduate student Usamah Ansari, who died April 13 after being struck by a car at College Street and Ossington Avenue in Toronto. Originally from Vancouver, Ansari has been described as a “brilliant” student and an exceptional human being. He completed his undergraduate degree in sociology and anthropology at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and received the Top Student Award (now re-named the Usamah Ansari Top Student Award in his honour) and the Dean’s Convocation Medal from SFU.

Right: Usamah Ansari

In the fall of 2007, Ansari joined the Graduate Program in Sociology in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. At the time of his death, he was in the final stages of his master’s research paper and he had just accepted a five-year, fully-sponsored fellowship in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Toronto where he was planning to pursue a PhD.

"Usamah was a truly wonderful human being,” says York sociology graduate student Azin Soltani. “He had profound insights into life. He embodied powerful intellectual and spiritual depth, and a compassionate sensitivity towards those around him. I learned a lot from Usamah throughout our year together as colleagues and friends. He was a wise soul.”

Ansari’s professors were also impressed with his engagement with life and with learning. “I never met a student, at the age of just 23, who is so bright and can handle complexity in such a nuanced, reflexive and ultimately brilliant manner,” said Ansari’s graduate supervisor, York sociology Professor Michael Nijhawan.

Sociology Professor Radhika Mongia, who taught Ansari, said,“I was humbled by his fluency in multiple and disparate lexicons that stretched from complex theoretical debates, to a deep intimacy with Urdu poetry, to an engagement with Bollywood cinema. He had an extraordinarily supple and agile mind that was able to move between these different lexicons, connect them, and produce startlingly refreshing insights into understanding our world. My thoughts are with his mother, his family and his friends.”

Members of the York community will have an opportunity to attend a formal memorial service for Ansari at 2pm on Saturday, May 24, in the East Common Room, Hart House (7 Hart House Circle), on the campus of the University of Toronto. The flag at York University will fly at half-mast on Friday, May 23, in memory of Ansari.

A memorial scholarship fund has been created in Ansari’s honour. Donations can be made at any branch of the Bank of Montreal to The Usamah Ansari Fund, account number: 03982-8171-638. Or, you can send your donation directly to The Usamah Ansari Fund, Attn: Elise Armstrong, secretary to the chair, Department of Sociology, 2060 Vari Hall, Keele campus.

Visit the Faculty of Arts Web site to learn more about Ansari.