In Memory of Yihong Xia (September 5th, 1970 – August 6th, 2005)
Yihong Xia (夏一红), a talented young scholar in finance , passed away at 10: 27 am EST, August 6, 2005. Yihong had been diagnosed with TTP () only weeks before her passing. She is survived by her parents, Jinqi Xia and Zhenghua Fang, her husband Guiming Miao, her brother, Xinhong Xia, and her six year old daughter, Jessica Miao.
This is a forum for her family, friends, colleagues, students and anyone whose life had been touched by hers, to share memory of Yihong's short but brilliant life.
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Professor Michael Brennan's Eulogy at Memorial Service for Yihong Xia
The Church of Saint Margaret
August 17, 2005
Guiming has asked me to say a few words about Yihong. This is an honor that breaks my heart.
Yihong was an astounding young woman whom we all loved, and who was loved by a much larger circle of friends than can be here today to say goodbye. Her parents who have come on this sad journey here must be proud of her and her accomplishments.
Yihong was highly intelligent. She was extremely hard working. She was highly ambitious - that is why she came to the US at the age of 23. She was brave and courageous - it takes courage to come to a university in a foreign country when you have only an uncertain command of the language - Yihong told me about her economics professor at Emory, how she could not understand what he was saying in class, and how surprised she was to do well in the first exam. It takes courage for a small Chinese woman at the age of 30 to face a class of Wharton MBA's. She was strong and independent - she had decided views and they were not always easy to change - Yihong and I had lots of arguments. She was interested in her new culture without accepting it uncritically. She was generous to her friends and colleagues –helping fellow students at first, and later doctoral students, sharing her lecture notes with colleagues and so on. Most of all, Yihong was enormous fun to be with. She liked to joke, gossip, tease and be teased, as well as to talk more seriously. When I saw her in hospital, she could not talk - but she smiled as I reminded her of what a chatterbox she usually was. Yihong enjoyed her professional success - particularly in this past year or so when she had got her Green Card and could travel to Vienna, London, Stockholm, Cambridge, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. At the time of her death she was planning trips toSwitzerland and India and no doubt other places as well.
But despite her professional success, what really defined Yihong was her family. As we worked together and I occasionally stayed in their home, I got to know a lot about Yihong and her family. She talked to me often about Guiming and Jessica, and since her death Guiming has told me more about the closeness of their relationship.
Guiming was a devoted husband - he came to America, not for the personal opportunities that America offers, but because he wanted to be with Yihong. He was lucky - Yihong agreed to marry him, even though it meant them being apart for the better part of four years while she studied at UCLA and he was in Atlanta. Of course they got together when they could, and Jessica was born 2 years later while Yihong was still a doctoral student. This posed a considerable challenge to Yihong, a doctoral student with a baby in a foreign country, separated from her husband except when he could get over for weekends. Fortunately, Yihong's parents and later Guiming's parents were able to come over for extended visits to help look after Jessica.
Yihong was a devoted mother who never allowed her professional responsibilities to come ahead of the needs of her daughter. Guiming was often away because of his work and Yihong often looked after Jessica alone. She stinted no sacrifice for Jessica. Driving her to school for ballet, gym, Chinese language lessons, piano and so on. She would often interrupt a telephone conversation with me to say that she had to go and get Jessica. I wish I had the words to express the loss that Guiming and Jessica have suffered. I know that Yihong would be proud of Guiming's strength at this difficult time.
Yihong was also very attached to her own parents. As I mentioned, they did a lot to help, even though it cannot have been much fun for them living in an American suburb and not speaking the language. I think it was better for them in the student housing at UCLA where there were lots of Chinese students. Yihong would often talk about her parents, especially her mother. "My mom did this or that"she would say. And of course, Guiming's parents were staying when Yihong died.
There is not time for me to talk in detail about Yihong's life, but let me sketch it in terms of two great journeys. The first is a remarkable journey from a small village in China to a position on the Wharton School faculty. Yihong was born in 1970 – today would have been her 36th birthday according to the Chinese lunar calendar which takes account of time in the womb. Her mother was an accountant and her father graduated from an aerospace institute. During elementary school Yihong lived with her grandmother in a small village. I remember one time saying how remarkable was her energy and intelligence given the relatively poor diet that was available in the countryside in China at the time. She told me that her grandmother kept chickens and saw that Yihong had an egg every day to ensure that she had enough protein. I think that she was her grandmother's favourite. Her grandmother died this year just before Yihong could see her during her visit to China. When I had known Yihong for many years I plucked up courage to ask her about some scars she had on her hand - I imagined that they were the result of some burn. She told me that they were scars from chilblains which she had got by sitting up studying in the cold as a child. So that life was pretty hard by our standards today but Yihong looked back on it with fondness.
She told me that she was not an outstanding student in elementary school, but in her early teens she started to do really well in school and, as a result, was sent at the age of 15 to a special boarding school in the city of Yang Zhou. From there she went home only between semesters although by then her mother was able to visit her at weekends.
She obviously did well in this secondary school for she was admitted to Fudan University to study International Economics in 1989 when she was 19. Jun Qian, who is on the faculty at Boston College and is here today, was a contemporary, and writes that when he saw her he thoughtshe was "a junior high student - she looked so tiny and young - soon however he found that this little girl had so much intelligence, courage, toughness, determination and love for life and other people. He was only the first of many who were to be misled by appearances. He paints a picture of her being the first at a large early morning class to get a front row seat, and another of her quietly walking by a bunch of guys one evening in her freshman year, with her bag on her shoulder, smiling and waving at them. She graduated in 1992 and a year later entered the PhD Program at Emory. In the intervening year she worked for Sanwa Bank in Shanghai, and it was there that she met Guiming who was her Japanese tutor.
They fell in love and a year later Guiming left his doctoral studies in China to join her at Emory. They were married in 1996 and Yihong came to UCLA in August that year. I met Yihong a year later when she had completed her doctoral exams and knocked on my door asking if she could help with my research. I think it was Henry Cao who had directed her to my door. In the years to come I was to find that it was I who was helping Yihong with her research - mainly by making minor corrections to the English. We had a great time working together. Not that we always saw eye to eye. But we were good friends and even when we had serious disagreements there was nothing personal in them. I was proud to see her graduate and take a position at Wharton in 2000, but sorry to see her leave UCLA - but within a year we were once more collaborating and that collaboration continued to her death – indeed she leaves me today with papers under revision and review.
I will not say any more about her academic life but turn instead to a parallel journey that Yihong was making, about which I know much less. This is her journey from Maoist China to this Catholic requiem Mass.
When Yihong came to UCLA she found rooms through the internet with a lady from Taiwan who was a catholic. This lady had a major influence on Yihong, taking her to Mass regularly. In fact we went to the same church but I think Yihong and her landlady always went to the last Mass on Sunday evening so I never saw them. Yihong used to tell me that they were always late for Mass. But this lady, Joan along with her brother Ignatius who is with us today, had a tremendous influence on Yihong.
I used to talk to Yihong occasionally about religion and once went to Mass with her here in Pennsylvania; she knew a lot about Christianity and Catholicism, but on the whole this was not a topic between us. So I was very surprised this last June when we were out to dinner with my wife and Jun Liu, and Yihong said out of the blue that I should have made more effort to persuade her to become a catholic. I promised to do so in the future and even offered her a bet that if I were right on a certain academic matter she should defer to my judgement by becoming a catholic. She did not respond to that.
But when she was sick I called Guiming to say that I thought she should be baptised. Again I was surprised to hear that she had already been baptised and that the hospital chaplain was visiting her. When I saw her in the hospital three days before she died she could not speak but she was smiling and relaxed and quite at peace. It is hard not to see the hand of God in this progression. St Paul tells us that, for the Christian, death means that life is changed, not taken away. I am quite sure that this is the case for Yihong and that she is smiling down on us from heaven and praying for strength for Guiming and Jessica and those she has left behind. God bless her.