Nearly 200 people gathered Wednesday at UNC-Chapel Hill to both remember a professor slain last week and to push for a safer community.
The Chinese-American Friendship Association and other groups sponsored Wednesday’s memorial at the FedEx Global Education Center, just a few blocks from where research professor Feng Liu was attacked July 23. Liu died the next day at UNC Hospitals.
Many in the crowd said they were still shocked by the slaying. Some were moved to tears and found it hard to speak.
Volunteers started pulling together the vigil over the weekend. Liu’s portrait rested on a stand at the front of the plaza, wrapped with a white ribbon. White flowers and candles dotted tables around the plaza and lined a fountain in front of the portrait.
White flowers are a sign of respect, said Chris Guo, a Chapel Hill resident for 25 years and president of the RTP branch of the Carolinas Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
Feng Liu’s death was “unbelievable,” Guo said. The Chinese community celebrates the good times and holidays together, he said, making this loss a significant event for everyone.
“We want a peaceful environment for Americans and for Chinese-Americans,” Guo said. “We want all people to get together, and (to have) no victims.”
Liu, 59, was hit with a rock while being robbed, prosecutors said. Two men – Troy Arrington, 27, of Chapel Hill, and Derick Davis II, 23, of Durham – have been charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and assault in Liu’s death. They are being held in the Orange County jail.
Liu, an internationally known scientist and research professor, had worked at UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy since 2005. He was a native of China and lived in Durham with his wife and family. He will be buried beside his parents in China, speakers said.
Liu was remembered for his work in nanotechnology and drug delivery – one of his papers was cited more than 1,200 times, a colleague said. He also was a loving husband and father and a fun-loving person always willing to help or mentor graduate students.
Liu’s spirit transcended his scientific contributions, pharmacy dean Robert Blouin said. The family contributed a photo to the vigil of Liu blowing bubbles in happier times.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people from across the campus and across the community to be here tonight to help celebrate his life,” Blouin said. “I hope that in some respects, this will be a celebration of a life. A lot of his pictures were very serious, but he was actually a very gregarious personality.”