Two Emporia State University students from China who died in a fire at their off-campus home were remembered as generous students who planned to use their educations to help others.


Two Emporia State University students from China who died in a fire at their off-campus home were remembered as generous students who planned to use their educations to help others.

Nearly 400 people attended a memorial Thursday night for Yawei Fan, 23, and Zheng Lin, 22, who died Oct. 20 when items on the grate of a floor furnace ignited in their duplex. They attended Emporia State through an exchange program with Liaoning Normal University in Dalian, China.

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

Fan was a sophomore studying chemistry. Lin had earned her bachelor's degree from Liaoning after four semesters of course work at Emporia State. This fall, she began work toward a master's degree in English, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

"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 Katie Mitchell-Koch, an instructor in the chemistry department. "He was generous with his time and himself in service to others."

She said members of ESU's physics and chemistry student organizations plan a memorial project for Fan that will train student volunteers to inspect student housing for fire safety. They also are raising funds to buy and distribute smoke detectors for 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 Mel Storm, professor of English and Lin's advisor.

The students' parents and other family members attended the service. They were presented with framed Chinese translations of resolutions from the university's Associated Student Government commemorating the students. They also received each child's degree recognition and a condolence letter from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

Students with the Chinese Student Association are collecting donations for the families. Donations payable to Phoenix Charity Foundation may be mailed to the Emporia State Federal Credit Union.