CHICAGO – Crowds of mourners packed into the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago on Thursday to remember recent graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, known to many as Dennis.
“He embodied the values of the University of Chicago through his commitment to improving the lives of others,” said school president Paul Alivisatos.
Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, who came to Chicago from the University of Hong Kong, earned his Master’s Degree in statistics back in June. He aspired to be a data scientist.
“What has become most clear to me is that in addition to being a prominent and enthusiastic scholar and a valued colleague, Dennis was a dear friend to so many people,” Alivisatos said.
His mentors say he challenged the status quo and welcomed new people to the statistics department as the unofficial tour guide for prospective students.
“I greatly admired his dedication to learning and his intellectual curiosity,” said University of Chicago Statistics Chair Dan Nicolae. “I know that we all will remember Dennis for his kind and generous spirit, for his talent and dedication.”
Zheng was shot and killed in a robbery near campus last week. Police say the suspect, Alton Spann, pawned the items he stole from Dennis for a $100.
Zheng’s mom spoke at his memorial service as his family traveled from China to partake in his memorial service.
“I’ve never seen so many people gathering in this chapel,” said a professor of Chinese at the University of Chicago. “I was here many times for various reasons, but this one is the saddest. He’s the third student killed this year.”
The professor adds that violence throughout the city of Chicago must come to an end.
“I have so many students – their safety is my concern,” she said. “If they don’t feel safe to come to class, if my colleagues don’t feel safe to come teach, how can we make the university work?”