Hannah Graham’s Parents Create Memorial Award to Honor Her Passions

The family of late University of Virginia student Hannah Graham on Friday announced the creation of a memorial award to honor her memory.

Speaking at a somber launch event at U.Va.’s OpenGrounds studio, Graham’s father, John, said the award was created to help realize all of the things that his daughter would have achieved were she still alive. Hannah Graham was the victim of a homicide in September after disappearing from the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville.

A slideshow of pictures of Hannah from babyhood to college age played on two large screens before the program began and her mother and father watched and smiled as the images changed.

“Sue and I are delighted to be here today to support the launch of the Hannah Graham memorial award,” John Graham said, addressing the audience that included Hannah’s friends, U.Va. faculty and administrators, and media representatives.

He said the award will be funded by the Hannah Graham Memorial Fund, an endowment which was established last fall by U.Va. and is supported by the Grahams, family, friends, work colleagues, U.Va. alumni and members of the public. “We thank you all,” he said. (Donations can be made here.)

The award will be given to students who share Graham’s passions for global health, French culture and service to others. A cash prize, initially set at $10,000, will accompany the award. Plans call for awarding more than one recipient as funding increases. Recipients will commit to engaging in two semesters of related coursework at U.Va. and in field work of at least eight weeks in a French-speaking developing country, such as Tunisia, Senegal, Morocco or Martinique.

John Graham said Hannah became enthralled with “all things French” and with public health after participating in a U.Va. study-abroad program in Lyon, France, last spring and then working last summer at a high-profile public health conference in Washington D.C.

“We hope that through this award, part of Hannah’s legacy will be to improve the lives of those living in very challenging circumstances,” he said.

U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said the award will help everyone to remember “the wonderful and vivacious, humorous intellectual she was. To share that memory with future generations ... that is the good we can bring from something that is evil.”

In addition to her time in France, second-year student Hannah Graham participated in a student-led service program, Alternative Spring Break during her time at U.Va. She was also a member of the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team.

The new award is a collaborative effort among a number of individuals and units at U.Va. Applications for the award will be solicited from across the University. Faculty from U.Va.’s Global Development Studies program and the Center for Global Health will initially screen the candidates, with the final selection made by the Hannah Graham Memorial Award Board of Trustees. Representatives from the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, the U.Va. Alumni Association, the Center for Global Health and the Global Development Studies department will jointly provide administrative support.

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