Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Friends:

It is with great sorrow that I must tell you that the FBI announced this evening that they believe Yingying Zhang, a visiting scholar to our campus who disappeared three weeks ago, is no longer alive. They have made an arrest and now it is time for us as a university community to come together in support of her family and friends in this difficult time of loss.

There are no words that can explain why or how such a terrible thing should happen nor is there anything I might say that will ease the grief of any of you who knew her. There will be time for justice and for explanations in the days and weeks ahead. But in this moment, I ask each of you to keep her family in your thoughts and to make our collective focus a celebration of Yingying Zhang’s life.

There is always some joy to be found in the memories we hold of those who we lose even in the darkest of moments. Their stories, their dreams and the lives they have touched should to be shared. I ask all of you to help to ensure that Yingying is remembered for her kindness, her gentleness and her smile. This is the greatest gift we can offer as a community to her family and friends today.

Tomorrow evening, we are holding a campus wide memorial ceremony to honor her life, support her family and to remind everyone that wherever you might come from and whatever the language you speak, when you come to the University of Illinois, you become part of our community and our family.

I hope you will join that celebration in person or in spirit.

In sorrow,

Robert J. Jones

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