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In memory of Ying Wu and Ming Qu

Ying Wu and Ming Qu memorial
USC president C. L. Max Nikias during the memorial (Photo/Steve Cohn)

Thousands gathered at the Shrine Auditorium on April 18 to remember the lives of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, whose deaths have marked a tragic loss to the Trojan Family and the international community.

The larger-than-life smiles of Wu and Qu, projected onto a large screen on the stage, presided over the somber ceremony that recalled the lives of the two USC Viterbi School of Engineering graduate students who traveled thousands of miles from their homes in China to study electrical engineering.

“How can we accord them the respect and reflection they deserve when we are beset with unresolved grief? When we are consumed by unresolved anger and unresolved questions? How can we make sense of the senseless?” asked USC president C. L. Max Nikias in a speech in which he also announced the creation of a scholarship fund in their memory. “There are no simple answers to our questions. The one thing that is clear is that we must come together to share, to remember and to heal.”

When the parents of Wu and Qu entered the historic building, the entire crowd rose to its feet in silent respect. And when the memorial ended, the crowd rose once again, and exhorted by USC School of Religion professor and the Rev. Cecil Murray, hugged one another.

During the ceremony, distinguished speakers from USC, student leaders representing Chinese and international student groups, close friends and even the Chinese ambassador gave deep and long bows to the images of Wu and Qu, before offering their reflections on the two bright 23-year-olds who already had accomplished so much in their short lives.

English speeches were shown on a screen in Mandarin, and those who spoke in Mandarin had their comments shown in English, except in the case of Jing Ye, a close friend of Wu and fellow graduate student in the USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering. She spoke only in her native language yet the emotions she expressed were understood by all.

Biao Yang, Qu’s best friend, recalled his friend from the country and how they shared a room together, shared food together and shared their dreams together.

“Our future is infinite, but time stops,” Yang said. “And your young life and all you have were deprived cruelly. We will take care of your parents. We will complete your goals that you were not able to realize. I hope that we can still be good friends in heaven.”

Nikias and USC Viterbi dean Yannis C. Yortsos expressed a kinship with Wu and Qu, who left their families and homes, crossing oceans in search of an education at a renowned university.

“To them and to many of their classmates and undergraduates at USC Viterbi and at USC, I know that I speak the same language as you. Because I am like you,” Yortsos said. “Like you, I came to this country as a foreign graduate student. I came thirsty for education, thirsty to explore the world. Like you, I dreamed to make a difference.

“Like you, I wanted to explore a new world – the United States – coming from a different part of the world – Greece. Joining a country that offered me abundant opportunities to expand my horizons, advance my education and help me accomplish much more than I ever thought possible.

“Today, I grieve with all of you because a senseless act of violence crushed these dreams and destroyed your sacrifice.”

Though they left their parents and relatives in their homelands, Nikias, Yortsos, Wu and Qu found a new family at USC.

“This Trojan Family includes 3,000 outstanding students from China and Taiwan,” Nikias said. “And this global family stands together. This family perseveres together.

“And, yes, this family sheds tears together. But it also comes together and consoles together. Our worldwide Trojan Family grieves both here and in more than 100 other nations. Tragic events crystallize the true character of a community, and this ordeal has brought the Trojan Family closer together.”

As USC Thornton School of Music student Jessica Ryou performed the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, a slideshow featuring photos of Wu and Qu appeared on the screen.

“Their passing has left us devastated and heartbroken, filled with confusion and despair,” said USC dean of religious life Varun Soni. “Remembering is only the beginning, we must also carry their precious gifts of love, honor, duty, hard work and sacrifice with us throughout our lives and in all that we do. As we honor them, let us cherish their memory that remains with us as a blessing for all.”

To honor the students in the future, Nikias announced that USC will establish the Ming Qu and Ying Wu Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“We can promise we will always remember you,” Nikias said. “The holders of these scholarships will embody your qualities that were so revered and endeared by your family, friends and fellow students: unrestrained intelligence, unbounded drive, unyielding ambition, unassailable accomplishment and uncompromising kindness.

“This scholarship fund will ensure that your dreams will live on forever through the opportunities it opens up for other students. We can further honor your memory by committing ourselves to building a better city and a better world in which our children are safe to grow, to discover, to love and to reach their fullest potential.”

For more information about the Ming Qu and Ying Wu Memorial Scholarship Fund and to make a donation, contact Jane Ong at (213) 821-2921 or jane.ong@usc.edu.

President Nikias’ formal memorial remarks are available online.

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