HGSE Calls for Donations after Sudden Death of Ed. D. Student Yan Yang

Dear HGSE Students,

As a community, we are deeply saddened by the recent loss of Ed.D. student, Yan Yang, Ed.M. ’10, who passed away on Friday, November 13th. Yang is remembered by many as a friend, colleague, teacher, student, and mentor. During her time here at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) she had a deep impact on all who knew her, loved her, and worked with her.

In the Chinese culture it is customary to raise money for the family of the deceased. In this case, the Harvard community would like to honor Yang by raising money for her mother, Heping Yu, who lives in Jiangsu Province,China. As you can imagine, Yang’s mother is overwhelmed with grief and unfathomable sadness and will not be able to travel to the US for our memorial service to honor Yang’s life.

Yang was born in Liyang, a small rural town in Jiangsu Province. Her father passed away when she was seventeen. After graduating from Nanjing Normal University in China with a major in early childhood education, she came to HGSE in 2009 for her Ed.M. degree in Arts in Education. She began the Ed.D. program in 2010 concentrating in Culture, Communities and Education. Despite long-term health issues, Yang’s mother works on the streets of Liyang selling fruits and breakfast food to local members of the community. As someone close to Yang said, “Yan was her only child and hope.”

Chinese students and friends of Yang in this community and the Harvard community have asked us to continue with Chinese tradition to honor Yang and support her mother, so that she will continue to have hope as she deals with the loss of her only child.

You can help honor Yang in one of two ways. Donations can be provided through CrowdRise at www.crowdrise.com/inmemoryofyanyang.

We will also be accepting cash donations or donations of Chinese currency in the Office of Student Affairs, the first floor of Gutman Library, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA. Our contact information is [email protected]; 617-495-8035. Our hope is to provide the donations to the members of Yang’s family who will travel from China to be here at the Memorial Service.

We hope to have a date for the Memorial Service in the very near future, and a community email will provide further information.

Finally, I wanted to share with you Yang’s concluding thoughts following the completion of her Qualifying Paper as she reflects on her childhood and family.

Concluding thoughts of Qualifying Paper: written by Yan Yang

The act of looking back at my 2009 moon study has become a search for the forgotten and the unnoticed roots in experience. This act of reconnecting to the roots has simultaneously extended and furthered my experience at present. In the notebook pages, there I found a moon gazer, a true learner, a human being with a history. In reading those pages, I saw not only myself, but others whose images had long been blurred, distorted, or neglected. Amazingly enough, I even started to see my own childhood.

I grew up near the fruit stand my parents owned, helping with carrying boxes of fruit, laying them out into piles on the stand. In scorching summer, I pushed the cart loaded with watermelons while my father pulled it up the bridge and I pulled it back while the cart was sliding downwards going off the bridge. I learned to unload boxes of apples, oranges, bananas from the cart in a way that the cart did not lose balance and tip over. I learned to put my hand on the end of the handle when the cart did lose balance and was about to tip over. I watched my parents set up a canopy with bamboo poles, tarpaulin, and ropes, to get ready for pouring rain. My father invented efficient ways of doing multiplication in his fruit selling practice. The flexibility exhibited in his methods amazed me.

I grew up watching my parents cultivating crops in the field, following my mother while she was walking along the ridge carrying rakes, pulling weeds from the field with my father. I loved gazing toward the end of the field far away where the sun set behind the endless mountain (and, of course, measuring the size of a man with the cracks of my fingers!). The best time of year was the harvest season, when work was done, when grains were piled up on the flat earth ground, when fire was lit to burn away the crop straws in another big pile. When it was dusk, we children played chasing games, running around, cooking sweet potatoes in the burning straw pile.

Those lives, tastes, measuring, carrying, waiting, pulling, desires, delights… now I start to see them as the root of me as a human being. I thought I was getting further and further away from home because education had taken me. Now, I am learning to find my way back, back to home.