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Yuan Li

Described by his friends as optimistic, intelligent, and a wonderful listener, Yuan Li ’04 passed away on the afternoon of Oct. 7.

Li was involved in a two-car accident in the Catskill Mountains in New York state. Two others passed away in the accident, including Li’s girlfriend Zhengying (Carly) Gu. Both lived in New York City.

“He was always a very happy person, optimistic,” Sisi Liu ’05 said. “Whenever we would hang out, I wouldn’t worry about other things.”

Li majored in Course XV (Management) and VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and was a resident in New House.

Tilke M. Judd ’03 and Eugene Weinstein ’00 worked with Li during the summer of 2001 when the three of them participated in the China Educational Technology Initiative under the MISTI China Program.

“Tilke and I would often disagree, and Yuan always served as the level-headed arbiter,” Weinstein said.

The three students taught Web design and digital photography to high school students in Guangzhou, China, near Li’s family home.

“He was a good friend, inviting us into his family’s home and making sure we had fun while in his native China,” Weinstein said. “It’s a tremendous shock that he is gone.”

“We were all the more impressed with him when we saw the humble home where he grew up,” Judd said. “We could see that he had come a long way in getting to MIT and that he and his family were very proud of his achievement.”

Li attended two years of high school in the United Kingdom at the United World College of the Atlantic, after which he entered MIT as an international student. Before entering the UK high school, Li was considered by his Guangzhou school to be one of the students with the brightest futures, according to Jia Chen ’05.

“He was a big brother to me,” Joy H. Tang ’07 said.

Tang often went to Li for advice about internships or jobs and would ask for his help in practicing for interviews. She had spoken to him every day the week before the accident, in preparation for one such job interview. “He told me he was proud of me,” Tang said. “He really saw me as one of his little sisters.”

Born in 1979 in Guangzhou, China, where his parents still reside, Li was set to turn 27 today. Tang said that she and a few others had been planning to throw him a birthday party.

Tang met Li during her freshmen year, his senior year. When he graduated, she said that he gave her his bicycle. She also recalled that he was a huge movie fan.

After Li graduated from MIT, he worked for over a year at JPMorgan and then moved on to the New York branch of LS Power Group, a private equity firm. At both firms, he worked with one of his high school classmates, Sharon Wong.

“He was a brilliant guy,” Wong said. “He was enthusiastic and cheerful in everything that he did. The company thinks it is a huge loss. It will be hard for us to find anyone who can step into his shoes.”

Many friends of Li’s are flying in from all over the world to attend his memorial service being held tomorrow at the house of two of his close friends in New York City, Bruce Au ’04 said. “There has been a huge show of support for him and his family.” Au and Chen, among others, helped to set up the service.