Syracuse University and the Tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103 Over Lockerbie

December 21, 1988, four days before Christmas, was to have been filled with joyful reunions. It quickly turned horrible for the families and friends of the 259 people on board and 11 on the ground who perished when Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. Twenty-five Syracuse University students were among the fatalities. Another 10 were from other campuses but were part of Syracuse’s study abroad program.

In the days before 24-hour news on TV and the internet, I remember where I was when I first heard the news. My sister called to tell me that the Pi Beta Phi chapter house at Syracuse, the place where I had lived most of my college life, was pictured in the New York Daily News. The chapter lost three sisters in the terrorist attack. My heart turned heavy. As a young mother preparing for the holidays, I silently wept for the families whose holidays would be forever marred by the tragedy.

The Pi Phis on board were Karen Lee Hunt, Julianne Kelly, and Alexia Tsairis. Cynthia J. Smith, a Delta Phi Epsilon, and Amy Shapiro, a Kappa Kappa Gamma, were also on the flight. Syracuse fraternity members on board were: Gary Colasanti, Sigma Alpha Epsilon;  Steven Berrell, Phi Delta Theta; Stephen Boland, Delta Tau Delta; Alexander Lowenstein, Zeta Psi; and Richard Monetti, Alpha Tau Omega. Thomas Schultz, a Phi Delta Theta at Ohio Wesleyan University, was enrolled in Syracuse’s semester abroad program.

There were four Colgate University students on board; John Flynn was a member of Colgate’s Kappa Delta Rho chapter. Four Brown University students and one from Hampshire College were on the flight as well as two from the State University of New York at Oswego. One of the SUNY-Oswego students, Colleen Brunner, was a member of a local sorority Alpha Sigma Chi.

A memorial wall in front of the Hall of Languages was dedicated in April 1990. A “Remembrance Week” takes place each fall. Each year on December 21 at 2:03 p.m., the exact minute the plane exploded, a service is held at Hendricks Chapel. Syracuse University established two programs to memorialize the lives lost. Thirty-five seniors are chosen yearly to be “Remembrance Scholars.” Two graduating seniors from Lockerbie Academy are given the opportunity to study at Syracuse for a year through the “Lockerbie Scholars” program.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who were affected by the events that took place 24 years ago.


© Fran Becque,, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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