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Visitation honors Zhang’s life

Jillian Barwick and Bridget Feeney | Thursday, November 1, 2012

Students, faculty and staff wore green ribbons pinned to their jackets, dresses and suits as they celebrated the life of sophomore Ziqi Zhang during a visitation service at Kaniewski Funeral Home in South Bend on Wednesday afternoon.

After procuring the necessary visas, Zhang’s parents, sister and uncle flew in from China last week in order to make final arrangements to bring their daughter back home.

Zhang, who passed away from injuries sustained in a car-bicycle accident Oct. 18 on Route 933 just outside the entrance of Saint Mary’s, was an international student from the Jiangsu Province in China. She was studying philosophy and mathematics at Saint Mary’s and taking engineering classes at Notre Dame.

At the visitation, Zhang’s mother received a special gift from an anonymous member of the Class of 1963. The woman gave Zhang’s mother a sterling silver Saint Mary’s ring with the College seal on it. The woman said she felt compelled to give the ring to her family when she heard of Zhang’s passing.

“I just felt it would be a small gesture from someone in the Saint Mary’s family,” she said. “The Saint Mary’s family extends beyond class year. Once a Belle, always a Belle.”

The visitation was another chance for friends of Zhang to remember her spirit and intelligence after her sudden death. Patricia Sayre, philosophy professor and Zhang’s advisor, said she was impressed with Zhang’s determination to study the subjects she wanted to, regardless of difficulty.

“On that day when I first met her, she came into my office and told me she wanted to major in philosophy because, in effect, she wanted to be able to think more freely than was possible within the constraints posed by real-world engineering problems,” she said. “Ziqi was a person that knew her own mind.”

Sayre said she was impressed with Zhang’s courage and bravery in her studies. Philosophy, Sayre said, is a special subject that not just anyone can study.

“I would like [Ziqi’s family] to know that the choice to study philosophy is not one to be taken lightly, and that it takes a special kind of courage to go down the path she was taking,” she said. “I want to try to convey something about how it was a courage that extended far beyond simply being willing to go away to study thousands of miles from home. It was the courage to confront and explore serious human issues and go off in search of the truth no matter where that search might take you.”

While Zhang was known throughout Saint Mary’s for her bravery in academics, she was also regarded as someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks. Business and economics professor Richard Measell and his wife Nancy spend a lot of time with international students to provide comfort, entertainment and friendship to them while they are studying at Saint Mary’s.

One of the favorite destinations they liked to take students to was the beach in New Buffalo, Mich. On the way home, they would stop at Oinks, a popular ice cream place in the town.

“We always stopped at Oinks to get whatever flavored ice cream the students wanted,” Richard Measell said. “She got different flavors [each time].”

Nancy Measell said Zhang was someone who was always surprising people with her choices.

“She was very adventurous and always wanted to try new things,” she said. “You would always go, ‘Well, why would you want to do that?’ She was just adventuresome like that.”

The Measells also introduced Zhang and other international students to horseback riding. For Zhang, who lived in a big city, Richard Measell said this activity allowed her to get out to the countryside and see more of nature.

“She was always interested in animals, and for me, the greatest memory of her was her riding horses,” Richard Measell said. “Here was somebody who maybe never even touched a horse before she came here and … she was riding on a horse and she just loved that.”

Richard and Nancy Measell said the students were supposed to just walk with their horse, but Zhang had other plans.

“Ziqi and her adventurous spirit decided, ‘Let’s just gallop,'” Nancy Measell said.