Campus and community remember Yawei Fan and Zheng Lin

October 27, 2011

Nearly 400 people gathered tonight in Emporia State’s Albert Taylor Hall to remember two students whose lives were cut short in an apartment fire last week.

Yawei Fan, 23, and Zheng Lin, 22, came to ESU through an exchange program with Liaoning Normal University in Dalian, China.

“While this senseless tragedy appears beyond our comprehension,” said H. Edward Flentje, ESU interim president, “we should draw strength from the life stories of Yawei and Zheng, and from their love of life.”

ESU Interim President Ed Flentje presents degree recognitions to the families of Yawei Fan and Zheng Lin.
Fan was a sophomore studying chemistry. Lin had earned her bachelor’s degree from Liaoning after the Spring 2011 semester, thanks to four semesters of course work at ESU. This fall, she began work toward a master’s degree in English.

“If anybody needed a favor — even a big favor like a ride to the Kansas City airport or help to move furniture — Fan Yawei was the person who would help,” said Dr. Katie Mitchell-Koch, an instructor in the chemistry department. “He was generous with his time and himself in service to others.”

Members of ESU’s physics and chemistry student organizations have chosen to follow Fan’s example of giving, according to Mitchell-Koch. They plan a memorial project for Fan that would train student volunteers to inspect student housing for fire safety and raising funds to purchase and distribute smoke detectors to ESU students living in off-campus housing.

“Zheng’s dream was to take what she learned and share it, teaching English in her homeland at the college level, training new speakers of English and, as well, training new teachers of English.” said Dr. Mel Storm, professor of English and Lin’s advisor.

Fan’s and Lin’s parents and other family members attended the service along with ESU faculty, staff and students as well as members of the Emporia community. During the service, the parents were presented with framed Chinese translations of resolutions from ESU’s Associated Student Government commemorating the students. Each family also was presented with each child’s degree recognition and a copy of a condolence letter from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, which also was read in Chinese by Dr. Eric Yang, a biology professor with ties to the Liaoning province in China.

Friends spoke of the void left after the deaths.

“We feel so helpless about their death,” said Boyuan Li. “But we can still do something. We can be here to pray for them and help their parents pass this difficult moment.”

Students with the Chinese Student Association also want to help the families financially. They are collecting donations for the families. Checks made payable to Phoenix Charity Foundation may be mailed to Emporia State Federal Credit Union, 310 W. 12th Ave., Emporia KS 66801.

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