Memorial set for graduate student

A memorial open to all students on Saturday at the Twin City Bible Church on 806 West Michigan at 5:30 p.m. will honor Yingbo Zhou, a graduate student who was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 74 last Tuesday.

Zhou, student at the School of Library and Information Sciences, was returning from a trip to Niagara Falls with four friends at the time of the accident.

“Every time I saw her she always had a smile on her face,” said Jon Gant, associate professor of GSLIS. “She was very nice and hardworking. She was extremely smart.”

Zhou was president of GSLIS’ Chinese Group, which was a registered student organization. As president, she hosted a welcome party for new students, said Fei Xue, graduate student and vice president of the group.

“She was one of my closest friends,” Xue said. “She was a lovely girl.”

Zhou was a native of China and Gant described her as a colorful and funny person who loved to travel.

“She really loved her country. She grew up in an area similar to Champaign – flat countryside. It reminded her of her home country quite a bit,” he added. “She loved being able to visit different parts of the United States.”

Zhou was expected to graduate in May, Gant said. She worked for him on a team of seven student researchers developing map–based computer systems to help poor communities in eastern St. Louis and Chicago.

“Yingbo was really humble about how much she knew and her capabilities. She was always taking on new projects and new research,” said Jeanie Austin, graduate student in GSLIS. Austin worked with Yingbo for a year and a half on Gant’s research team.

Zhou also worked for Gant as his teaching assistant and instructed students in an advanced geographic information systems course.

“I don’t think most people realized it was her first year as a teaching assistant. She was a top student in the course when she took it,” he added. “I could easily have seen her becoming a professor down the road. She was very supportive. All of the students loved her.”

Gant said several of Zhou’s students invited her to their homes for Thanksgiving. Since the accident, many have been volunteering to help with her memorial, he said. They are also contributing to a scholarship that will soon be created in Zhou’s name and are creating a memory book to share with her parents.

A large group of Mandarin-speaking students have volunteered to serve as guides and translators for Zhou’s parents while they are on campus, Xue said. Zhou’s parents will visit Gant’s class Tuesday night to meet her students.

“They will see firsthand the types of things she did for her class. She was very selfless,” Gant said. “She was definitely a very special person.”