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Engineering graduate Maha El-Birani is inspired by memorial award

September 4, 2009

A family’s tragedy and their generosity have truly inspired Maha El-Birani . The recent Chemical Engineering graduate was this year’s recipient of the Phillip Nakahara MacLachlan Memorial Award, created by family and friends of Phillip, who died in a car accident in January 2006.

“I think it is very honourable that they have turned their tragedy into something positive for another engineering student,” says Maha. “There could not be a better way to keep Phillip’s memory alive with current students. I really admire and appreciate their generosity.”

She adds the $3,000 award helped make her time at Western much easier.

“I think it is amazing that I could still get a quality education with minimal debt to tie me down,” says Maha. “I’ve worked hard every summer to save money for my tuition payments but I also worked very hard in school and was involved in extra-curricular activities. Student awards are absolutely essential for making education a possibility for everyone at Western.”

Awarded to a full-time undergraduate student in the fourth year of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, candidates for the Phillip Nakahara MacLachlan Memorial Award must show academic achievement and demonstrate their involvement with volunteer work at the University or in the community.

Phillip’s parents, Fred MacLachlan and Emmy Nakahara, say their son is remembered by those who knew and loved him for his passion for life, his commitment to excellence and his involvement with Western, particularly the student orientation week program, intramural sports and the Western Varsity Water Polo Team.

“Phil’s loss created a huge void in our lives,” says Fred. “We lost a wonderful person. His passion was his friends, many of whom were classmates and the hundreds of frosh that he welcomed as an OC Soph. Establishing an award in his name to recognize a deserving student in Chemical Engineering became our goal. We are very pleased that we have been able to accomplish this through the generosity of family, friends, and many here at the University including the Engineering Faculty, OC Sophs, Students’ Council, and his fellow students.”

Maha is now working as an Engineer in the Distribution Group at Union Gas in Windsor. She says she loved the engineering program at Western and she believes being involved is important for every student to get the most out of their experience. She notes that once she has settled into her career she hopes she can also give back to Western so she, too, can help deserving students.

Phillip Nakahara MacLachlan Memorial Award – Maha El-Birani, BESc’09 Maha El-Birani (middle) and donors Emmy Nakahara (left) and Fred MacLachlan stand outside the Thompson Engineering Building at a recent meeting on campus.

This article appeared in the 2009 edition of Student Awards Recipient Report
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