As he handed over the scholarship last Thursday – days before the 8th anniversary of a fallen fraternity brother’s – Anthony Morales couldn’t help but feel a strange connection to the name behind the scholarship he had received last year and was delivering — Shannon Mohammed.
“I’ve never met him, never touched him in my life,” he said. “But I feel this special connection to him. He’s my bro.”
Morales, a sophomore majoring in criminology, heard Mohammed’s name frequently. Every time the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity brothers saluted, they always would end their salute in remembrance of their brother.
Mohammed joined the fraternity in Fall 2001. He was a USF ambassador and the chapter’s president, but on Nov. 11, 2003, Mohammed was returning to campus from Orlando when he saw a woman pulled over on the side of Interstate 75. Newspaper reports at the time said it was around 2:30 in the morning. Mohammed went to see if he could assist the woman when a tractor-trailer drove into Mohammed’s vehicle, instantly killing him.
For the past five years, Lambda Theta Phi has commemorated Mohammed with a scholarship award they grant to two freshmen in need of financial aid who embody the vision of Mohammed.
Last year, Morales was the recipient.
The scholarship awards $500, raised by the fraternity’s fundraising throughout the year, said Chapter Vice President Melchisedek Jean.
“The reason we started this scholarship is so we can keep his memory alive,” he said. “I don’t want somebody who was so great to just be forgotten about. He passed away young, but that doesn’t mean his ideals have to pass away too.”
Morales interviewed all candidates before selecting this year’s recipients, Ja’Ron Hammond, a freshman majoring in chemistry, and Kendra Salito, a freshman majoring in mass communications.
“Yeah, I looked at their resumes, yeah, I looked at their transcript and their GPAs and stuff, but I wanted to see how closely they could relate with Shannon Mohammed,” Morales said.
Jean said the recipients share the same dreams and goals as Mohammed and graduated from high school with high academic and leadership accomplishments.
“It shows that there’s still hope out there,” he said. “We’re trying to instill that to the incoming students so they can understand that there’s someone out there to care for them, because somewhere along the line we all got help.”
Jean, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said he was the recipient of a similar scholarship upon arriving at USF from Haiti.
“He died when we were in high school,” he said. “But it’s like he never was gone.”
Morales planned Thursday’s event in which the scholarship was awarded.
Just like all of Lambda’s events since his death, Mohammed’s parents and sister were present during the awarding.
Morales said unlike in past years, he hoped to change the theme of the event from mourning the loss of Mohammed to inspiring future generations.
“He’s still inspiring us,” he said. “He’s not here physically, but he’s still here with us. He never died. Every little thing we do, when it gets tough, we look up and think about Shannon.”