UNC-CH memorial fund honors slain dental students

Posted June 18, 2015 11:00 a.m. EDT

Yusor Mohammad (left) and Deah Shaddy Barakat. Photo credit: Facebook

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Dental Foundation of North Carolina have established an award in memory of two slain dental students who spent much of their lives giving back to the less fortunate.

Deah Barakat, 23, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21 were shot dead in their apartment in February along with Abu-Salha’s younger sister, 19-year-old Razan Abu-Salha. Suspect Craig Hicks, a neighbor of the couple, turned himself in hours after the crime and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

The deaths of the students sent the campus community into mourning and inspired the award, which has been named the Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha Memorial Award. The fund, which was created in consultation with the students’ families and has an initial endowment of $60,000, will be given each fall to a student or group of students who plan a local, national or international service project.

“Deah and Yusor led lives of great purpose and this fund is a fitting tribute to their humanitarian devotions,” UNC-CH Chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a statement. “Through this award, the Carolina community is honoring their legacy of creating a more compassionate world through dentistry and delivering aid to those who are most vulnerable and in need.”

The couple donated their time working in homeless shelters and free dental clinics. They planned to travel to Turkey this summer to provide dental care to Syrian refugees.

“Deah and Yusor had incredible hearts for service,” said Jane Weintraub, dean and alumni distinguished professor at the UNC School of Dentistry. “They often gave their weekends to working at homeless shelters or the North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinics, and were no strangers to international service trips. Through this award, we’ll be able to not only educate our students about their lives of service but also continue their legacy of giving back for years to come.”

Contributions can be made online to the fund.