SOAS University of London

SOAS pays tribute to two SOAS alumni on board Ethiopian Airlines flight

14 March 2019

We are deeply shocked and saddened to learn that two SOAS alumni tragically died in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crash near Addis Ababa. Many of the passengers on the flight were from NGOs or involved with the United Nations.

SOAS alumna Virginia Chimenti, 2015 MSc Development Studies, was working for the World Food Programme, and alumnus Oliver Vick, 2003 MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development, was travelling to a posting with the UN in Somalia.

Dr Mike Jennings, Head of the Department of Development Studies where both studied said: “Because of our work in the development field, some of those who died in the tragic air crash were known to colleagues in the department. But the loss of two of our former students has brought the sadness so much closer."

"We are enormously proud of Virginia and Oliver, both of whom exemplified in their work the values, commitment and desire to make a positive difference in the world that characterise members of the Development Studies and SOAS family. 

"We mourn the loss of Oliver and Virginia, who dedicated their lives to addressing the insecurity and vulnerability of communities around the world, and join with their family and colleagues in remembering them both.”

Oliver was a supporter of SOAS and donated to the Senate House Appeal, a fundraising campaign in 2015 to help support the creation of SOAS’s new building, the Paul Webley Wing. Oliver’s name appears on the wall outside the Alumni Lecture Theatre in the new building.

Emilie and Olly Vick (VCD)

Oliver Vick pictured above with a fellow former Masters student in Afghanistan - he sent this image to Professor Cramer saying how often he came across other alumni of the Masters programme (NB woman pictured on left is not Virginia Chimenti)

Professor Christopher Cramer, who remembers Oliver well and wrote a reference for one of his roles at the UN, said: “In the Violence, Conflict and Development Masters programme we are used to dealing with terrible events around the world and we have deep respect for all our students who work or go on to work in this field. We are deeply upset by this loss, we offer every condolence, and we will continue to remember Oliver with great fondness.”

Dr Jonathan Di John, who was Virginia's dissertation supervisor in the Department of Development Studies, said: "I remember her as very motivated, empathetic, sweet sense of humour, a good soul. I wrote her a reference for her first internship at UNDC."

SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos is writing to the families of the two alumni, expressing the heartfelt condolences of staff, students and alumni.