Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 23, 2016

Peace_Pole (1)

Manchester University's Peace Pole 

Peace Pole Honors Fallen Students

Oak Leaves Staff

Students, faculty, staff and the families of three international students who were killed last February in a car accident gathered on Sept. 16, a sunny fall afternoon at the site of the forthcoming Intercultural Center to dedicate a peace pole to those students.

The peace pole, which features the invocation “May Peace prevail on Earth” in eight languages, includes the Amharic language, from Ethiopia, in honor of Brook “BK” Dagnew and Kirubel Hailu, as well as the Igbo language, from Nigeria, in honor of Nerad Mangai. It is also inscribed with the hashtags #3FlyHigh and #MUStrong.

President Dave McFadden welcomed the guests and noted that the gathering was “bittersweet,” as it both honored the students who died and introduced the architectural plans for the new Intercultural Center, to be named for Manchester graduate Jean Childs Young ’54.

Michael Dixon, director of Intercultural Services and the international student advisor, remarked that “family” is a concept that defines the Intercultural Center. “BK, Nerad and Kirubel were family,” he said. “BK, Nerad and Kirubel ARE family.”

Benson Onyeji, professor of political science and director of the international studies program, recalled how bereft he felt when he heard that three African students were killed and one, Israel Tamire was seriously injured. “With their death, Africa was dead,” he said. “And, I was dead, and so was everything about me and around me at that moment. There was no difference between these students, my own children and the rest of us in this community. This Peace Pole Dedication is an expression of our appreciation of how we value these fallen students, what they mean to us as a community, and what they mean to each one of us personally.”

In dedicating the peace pole, Campus Pastor Bekah Houff spoke of the pole’s significance. “Our peace pole also stands here in the memory of the lives of students and dear friends, BK, Nerad and Kirubel,” she said. “May it also stand for family, community, love, understanding, and of course, peace in the Intercultural Center, around this campus and around the world.”

When Israel Tamire stood up from his chair in the back row and walked to the podium, it was difficult to see a dry eye in the attentive crowd. He talked about how the accident hurt him physically, it wasn’t until two weeks later, when he learned that his three friends had been killed, that it “actually felt like a car hit me.” 

He spoke of his emotional—and remarkable physical—healing, receiving a warm laugh from the crowd when he talked of his progress: “Four months after the accident—after the doctors said I couldn’t play basketball anymore—guess what happened. I took my first jump shot. I missed, but you can’t blame me. The sun was in my eyes.” 

As Tamire returned to his seat, the attendees acknowledged his remarks with the first applause of the afternoon, which continued as Alemayehu Hailu, Kirubel's father, and Mekete Dagnew, BK's father, both spoke about their sons with great love and sorrow. 

Upon its completion, the Jean Childs Young Intercultural Center will house a memorial patio dedicated to Dagnew, Hailu and Mangai. The peace pole will remain at the site, at the intersection of College Ave. and East St., until construction begins; it will return when the center is ready to open.