January 28, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman
tsunami damaged buildings

Photos of the University of Syiah Kuala (Unsyiah) after the Tsunami, taken by Hizir Sofyan

An Indonesian university with close ties to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture sustained devastating losses of life in the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami. As a result, a relief effort is being spearheaded for that university by college alumni, faculty and staff.

The University of Syiah Kuala (Unsyiah), in Banda Aceh, Indonesia has reported more than 5,000 students out of a student body of 18,000 are dead or missing, 247 faculty and staff are dead or missing, 144 children of faculty and staff are dead or missing, 202 homes of faculty and staff have been destroyed and one-third of the buildings and equipment on campus have been destroyed or are badly damaged. Much of the property damage to the university was a result of the earthquake.

The university was on its winter break when the earthquake and tsunami struck.

The university’s rector, Abdi Wahab, who survived, has both his master’s degree and doctorate in from UK with a major in Agronomy.

Unsyiah is one of eight Indonesian universities that the University of Kentucky helped develop by providing graduate training for faculty and staff. UK awarded a total of 194 master’s degrees and doctorates in the 1980s to faculty and staff of these eight universities. It is not yet known how many of the dead or missing are UK College of Agriculture alumni.

The UKCA Development Office has established a Tsunami Relief Fund to help rebuild the University of Syiah Kuala. Contributions will be held in this fund until Mike Reed, associate dean for international programs, returns from Sumatra in February. 

Contributions can be mailed to: Ag and HES Alumni Assoc, University of Kentucky, Room N 212, Agriculture Science Building – North, Lexington, KY 40546-0091. Make checks payable to UK Ag & HES Alumni Association, Tsunami Relief Fund. The Relief Account will be kept open for your contributions until June 30.

Retired professors John Ragland and Herb Massey, both of whom worked in Southeast Asia during their tenure, are spearheading the relief effort. Ragland has been in contact with Unsyiah officials through the help of Agus Hudoyo, an Indonesian agricultural economics doctoral student at UK, to determine the damage and what their needs are for recovery efforts.

Ragland said with the close association UK and especially the College of Agriculture has had with this university over the years, he felt like the relief effort needed to be done. This effort is not to try to supply immediate needs of people who have lost everything but is designed for a more long-term effort in helping the university get what it needs to continue educating students, he said.

Syiah Kuala University has just established a special task force group called USK (University of Syiah Kuala) for Aceh Reconstruction, Ragland’s contact, Hizir Sofyan, is a statistics professor and general secretary of this team as well as a friend of Hudoyo.

Hudoyo said he and Sofyan were in a training program together in Jakarta several years ago and have remained in contact since. He did not attend Unsyiah and his family does not live in the disaster area. He has been at UK since 2000. Hudoyo also is treasurer of the Indonesian Student Organization of Kentucky, which is conducting a fund-raising drive for Aceh Tsunami Relief. 


Writer:  Laura Skillman   270-365-7541 ext. 278