Late West Virginia University Professor Yi Luo (far left) often organized off-campus activities for mining engineering graduate students, visiting scholars and their families, including a spring trip to Babcock State Park in Clifftop, West Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Hua Jiang.)
More than 40 people – including many former students – are building upon the legacy of late West Virginia University professor Yi Luo by establishing a memorial scholarship to benefit graduate students in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources Department of Mining Engineering.
Luo passed away unexpectedly Feb. 13, 2022, at the age of 64. Within weeks, his former students, colleagues, friends and family contributed enough to establish the endowed Professor Yi Luo Memorial Scholarship, and the fundraising total has since climbed to over $44,000. The scholarship will be awarded to students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, with preference for those in their final year of study.
“Professor Luo would be overwhelmed to know that his former students put forth such a noble effort to raise this money to establish a scholarship in his name,” Vladislav Kecojevic, Robert E. Murray Chair and Professor of Mining Engineering, said. “It’s a wonderful way to keep his name and his legacy here with the department, particularly for graduate students. He was really committed to graduate programs and to providing opportunities for graduate students to come here to the United States and pursue their education.”
A native of China, Luo came to WVU to pursue a doctorate in mining engineering in 1985 and called Morgantown home for the rest of his life. He worked for more than 30 years in the Department of Mining Engineering, where he was a celebrated researcher in the area of mine subsidence and ventilation.
Luo was also a dedicated supporter of international students. He often returned to his alma mater in China, Xi'an University of Science and Technology, to present lectures and discuss educational opportunities in the U.S.
Hua Jiang is among the students Luo recruited from Xi’an University. Jiang completed his Ph.D. at WVU in 2020 and now works for the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in Pittsburgh, where he conducts research related to health and safety for coal miners.
“Without Professor Luo, I might have graduated in China and worked somewhere there,” Jiang said. “I would never have had the chance to come over to the U.S., which has been a very valuable, life-changing experience for me.”
Luo was always patient and supportive as he taught graduate students to be better researchers. But his support went far beyond the classroom. Jiang noted that Luo invited graduate students to play volleyball on weekends and hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for international students at his home every year, as well as picnics and other activities.
He also helped many international students find housing and get settled by offering them his almost-new secondhand furniture. Jiang recalled that Luo gave him a TV stand – and offered his couch, too – after Jiang moved to Morgantown.
“He enjoyed giving away furniture to international students to help them settle in,” Jiang said. “He constantly updated his own furniture then offered the gently used pieces to students and visiting scholars. I would also admit that this helped support his shopping habit.”
Jiang was among a core group of former graduate students who reached out to others seeking contributions for the memorial scholarship, with support from Luo’s family. Their initial goal was $10,000, a figure they surpassed quickly.
“All his students feel the same way as me: He was like a family member, not just our professor or adviser,” Jiang said. “We wanted to try to find a way to remember him. This will be forever. I know everybody definitely misses him.”
The group also raised money for a memorial bench that will be placed at WVU’s Core Arboretum later this year.
To contribute to the Professor Yi Luo Memorial Scholarship, visit secure.give.wvu.edu and specify fund number 3Z1060 as the designation for your gift. Interested donors can also contact Tammy Cavarretta, executive director of development for the Statler College, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-293-4036.
All gifts to the Professor Yi Luo Memorial Scholarship are made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.