MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Several graduations happened over the past few days, including for medical students at the University of South Alabama.
One student, who could not be there, was honored. Samantha Thomas was killed in a car accident on I-65 in 2020 when she was a third-year medical student.
Loud cheers, as Howard Thomas and Christiana Hoff crossed the stage in place of their daughter, Samantha.
“To walk across that stage and to share that and be invited to do that, phenomenal, wonderful feeling. I know Sam was there with her father, with me, with her class,” said Christiana Hoff, Samantha’s stepmother.
Samantha was killed on August 1st, 2020, and the driver, Dr. Jonathan Nakhla, is charged with murder. Prosecutors say he was drunk and driving at speeds over 130 miles per hour when he crashed his car on west I-65 service road that night. Samantha was a passenger in the car. He is awaiting trial.
“We are hurt. We are missing, missing her. Angry about the situation. This is what we’re handed and this is what we’re dealing with. So, promoting Samantha’s name, we’re moving forward,” said Howard Thomas.
Her family is honoring her legacy by helping future doctors that are attending the University of South Alabama. They created a scholarship last year, the Samantha Alison Thomas Memorial Scholarship Endowment, in her name.
“[Her name] it’s the only thing I’ve got left of her. We’ll keep it living through her scholarship,” said her family.
And the University of South Alabama is also carrying her legacy. During the medical school’s hooding ceremony Thursday, Dr. John Marymont, the vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine, announced the college would contribute $125,000 to the fund.
During the ceremony, Dr. Marymont said, “you started the Samantha Thomas memorial scholarship to help our students based on financial need.”
The school also announced they would be matching dollar for dollar up to an additional $125,000. You can donate to the scholarship here.
Her family says they were in shock, and overjoyed. “There’s no words. It’s wonderful,” said Harold.