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Virginia Tech Awards Posthumous Ph.D. to Indonesian Student

  • Sondang Sirait

The university in the southern U.S. state of Virginia where a student killed 27 other students and five faculty members last month held graduation ceremonies last week.

Among the graduates were those students who died in the shooting rampage. Virginia Tech awarded posthumous degrees to 18 undergraduates and five graduate students. A promising young man from Indonesia was among those to receive advanced degrees. Sondang Sirait of VOA's Indonesian service has more.

It was a touching moment for the Lumbantoruan family, accepting a posthumous Ph.D. diploma on behalf of their slain son, Partahi Mamora, better known as Mora, who died in the Virginia Tech shooting in April.

The tragedy has left the family broken-hearted. His mother still struggles with the fact that her only hope is gone.

And his father, a retired army lieutenant colonel, wears a necklace with Mora's picture, a ring engraved with Mora's name, his blood-stained watch, and he carries a wallet containing dollar bills, also stained with Mora's blood.

But he says he carries no hard feelings for Mora's killer and won't file any lawsuit. "We hope our son's sacrifice will bring peace, well-being, love and forgiveness. We forgive the killer, who shot Mora brutally and pray that God may forgive him."

Mora was one of 16 Indonesian students at Virginia Tech, an excellent student who had been working toward a Ph.D. in environmental and water resources engineering after obtaining a master's degree in geo-technical engineering.

Professor Panos Diplas, a Virginia Tech expert on environmental fluid mechanics, was one of Mora's two advisers. "What we were trying to do,” said Diplas, “was we were trying to combine his expertise from geotechnical with some other issues in water resources, trying to come up with a project to capitalize on his geo-technical background to break some new ground within environmental and water resource engineering."

Mora's other adviser was geo-technical engineering professor Marte Gutierrez, who at the time of Mora's death had been waiting for results of a study they both conducted on how to design better ways for vehicles to move in difficult terrains.

It was Mora's intelligence and good manners that left a deep impression on Professor Gutierrez, who plans on creating a web site in honor of his beloved student. "People should not remember the way he died, but the way he lived, the way he tried to improve his life, and I hope that he will remain as a model for many young people who want to study and improve their lives, because it's by studying that you become a better person," said the professor.

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