Elizabeth Moir School’s Kieran Shafritz De Zoysa Scholarship Recipient heads to Stanford University

Hansi Gunawardena, who entered Elizabeth Moir School as the recipient of the Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa Scholarship in 2020 has secured a place at Stanford University for the upcoming academic year.

Hansi credits her success both to the scholarship, and the opportunities Elizabeth Moir School offered her  “The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see. My teachers constantly encouraged us to ask questions and participate in discussion-based lessons, significantly improving my learning. They went above and beyond to adapt to online school to complete our education effectively while strongly believing in us. I was surprised by the confidence with which Mrs Moir assured me that a top university was possible when the process truly comes with so much uncertainty. Being surrounded by other diversely talented students who each had their own sense of purpose also inspired me. I am forever grateful for the enormous support from my school, family, and friends.”

Stanford, located in Palo Alto, California, is ranked number 2 in the world by ARWU. The university is called ‘the Harvard of the 21st century: its alumni include the founders of Google, Netflix, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Furthermore, tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Facebook recruit more employees from Stanford than any other college in the United States. Hansi was also offered places at other U.S. universities, including Columbia University –  ranked 6th in the world by US News, and the University of Southern California.  Hansi will receive financial aid worth over $60,000 per year from Stanford.

“Hansi has done brilliantly, gaining a much-coveted spot at Stanford. I am so very happy for her. Although Hansi is quite focused in her pursuit of sciences, one of the benefits of a first degree from an American university is the breadth of teaching. She can get a taste of philosophy, art history, neurobiology, music, Sanskrit, or anything else her heart desires,” said Dhulsini de Zoysa, Kieran Shafrtiz de Zoysa’s mother, adding “Although Kieran’s father and I are Harvard alumni, I would certainly have encouraged Kieran to put Stanford at the top of his list of universities. I know that Hansi will have a wonderful experience there.”

Ms. de Zoysa established the Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa Scholarship in 2019 to honour her son, Kieran, who died in the Easter Sunday attacks at only 11 years old. Kieran was on a leave of absence from his Washington, DC school to experience his mother’s homeland when he was killed tragically. Kieran’s father, Dr Alexander Shafritz Arrow, said “The terrorists didn’t know who they were killing but we should know what the world lost, what they took from the world: a brilliant mind who was going to become a neuroscientist.”

Kieran was a much-loved friend to many at Elizabeth Moir School. An enthusiastic learner with a sharp intellect and natural curiosity, he was an avid reader who always had a book in hand, reading for hours on day beds, sunbeds, and even in swimming pools! He excelled in maths and science and hoped to get a PhD in neuroscience to help unravel the mysteries of the brain.

But Kieran’s intellect is not why his death was devastating. Kieran’s mother says, “Chances are that, if you knew Kieran or just crossed his path, you walked away smiling, a little bit sunnier. That was his superpower.” A classmate at Elizabeth Moir School wrote “Kieran was the happiest person I have ever met. He always managed to cheer us up when we were feeling down.”

The Scholarship benefits academically gifted students, like Kieran, on merit and needs a base. The Scholarship is awarded on the basis of competitive exams and interviews held in June, following a call for applications.

The first recipient of the Scholarship, Janindu Nanayakkara is a first-year student at New York University, Abu Dhabi, on a full aid package.

Elizabeth Moir School has gained a reputation here and abroad for its university placements. The school has placed eight students at Harvard over the last 13 years. In 2022 alone, students have been offered places at leading universities across the world, including Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, USC, Georgia Tech, Duke, Barnard, Imperial, NYU, LSE and UCL and an unprecedented two places each at Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, and Amherst.

“Throughout my scholarship years at Moir, Kieran’s presence was remembered everywhere – in the playground at the break, in the Science labs during Chemistry, and in the songs sung during Choir practices” recalls Hansi, “Nothing could take away the sadness of the loss of his precious life. This has given me the unshakeable determination to make something of my life. The gift of education is one which cannot be measured ultimately. My deep sense of gratitude will continue to motivate me.” Kieran’s mother hopes that new leaders will emerge from Elizabeth Moir School, leaders who will protect Sri Lanka and the Earth, their biodiversity and natural resources; who will excel academically but also embody optimism, compassion, and kindness like Kieran; and who will bring people together for a greater good. That is the real legacy Kieran leaves to those whose lives he touched.