Sarmad Iskandar, a performance acting student at the Ryerson Theatre School, passed away in March. FILE PHOTO

RTS memorial scholarship

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By Alfea Donato

Through a flurry of donations as well as the efforts of friends, mentors and loved ones, the death of Sarmad Iskandar earlier this year led to the creation of a scholarship in his memory.

The first Sarmad Iskandar Memorial Award will be handed out at the Fall 2012 Awards Ceremony on Nov. 13 and will be awarded to a third-year acting student. who best embodies Iskandar’s outgoing and dynamic personality.

The recipient of the award will also receive a $1,000 scholarship. Iskandar drowned in Lake Ontario on March 12. Theatre school chair Peggy Shannon remembers the grief surrounding the event and how it impacted the whole theatre school, in particularly Iskandar’s 18 third-year acting classmates.

“There was a lot of sitting and talking and crying,” she said, adding that it was while talking the day after Iskandar’s death that the idea of a memorial award was brought up.

Students were not the only ones interested as a number of his classmates’ parents also wanted to help out. It was then that Shannon suggested the memorial award, and explained that starting a named award at Ryerson would involve a minimum of $1,000 per year for five years.

A parent involved with the Verna D. Davis Endowment Fund for the Arts offered to pay the entire minimum amount of $5,000. Along with the Davis contribution, Iskandar’s classmates fundraised $500 during their performances.

Money was also raised through a tribute page set up on Ryerson’s website as well as through the school’s annual phone donation campaign. Approximately $1,850 was raised through the university’s phonathon, which reaches out to Ryerson parents.

“I think he’d feel great [about the award],” said Joshua Stodart, a fourth-year acting student, and former classmate of Iskandar. “He was so friendly towards everyone. He’d feel fantastic about helping other people.”

Although she didn’t know Iskandar personally, second-year production student Cheyenne Wheeler said that she felt the emotional impact Iskandar’s death had on the tight-knit theatre school.

“[The award] is a nice way to keep his spirit alive,” she said. “Whether you knew him or not, it was like you lost a family member.”

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