Music prize in Chicago to be named for UI student who died in crash

Music prize in Chicago to be named for UI student who died in crash

CHICAGO — A music prize in Chicago will carry the name of University of Illinois junior Mimi Liu, who was killed in a traffic accident on campus Wednesday.

The Chinese Fine Arts Society — where Ms. Liu performed as a young pianist and later worked as an intern — will place her name on the top prize at a concert in November, featuring winners from its music festival later this month. Ms. Liu, an accomplished musician, organized the festival each year, said Julie Ma, president of the society.

"It's a huge loss," Ma said of Ms. Liu's untimely death. "She's just such a wonderful person, I just can't believe this has happened. Everybody's just trying to pick up the pieces, and in shock."

Ms. Liu was killed Wednesday morning when a pickup truck that had been driving erratically down Lincoln Avenue jumped the curb and struck her on the sidewalk. UI junior Spandana Mantravadi was also injured but remained in good condition Friday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. The driver, Willie Craft, 58, was ticketed, and the police investigation is continuing.

Funeral services for Ms. Liu are scheduled this weekend in Chicago. Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Dalcamo Funeral Home, 470 West 26th St., Chicago. A chapel service is scheduled for 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday at the funeral home. Burial will be in Mount Auburn Cemetery, 4101 South Oak Park Avenue, Stickney. Ms. Liu is survived by her parents, Zhi Li Liu and Xiao Chen, and by her younger sister, Annie, of Chicago.

The family said the services are open to family, friends and classmates of Ms. Liu, said Stephanie Brown, UI associate dean of students.

Student groups that Ms. Liu was active in are also considering a memorial service on campus, Brown said. The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences hopes to partner with them, but the plans are in the early stages, she said.

Ms. Liu, an agribusiness major, had just transferred to the college this semester from the UI's Division of General Studies. Her academic adviser for her first two years, Mike Myers, said she was "very intelligent" but also struggled a bit during her first semester on campus, as many students do. She improved "markedly" after that and worked hard to gain admission to her current program, he said.

Ms. Liu kept in touch with him regularly via email, and was always "a very bright, very happy person, a real pleasure to work with," he said. "It was one of those bright spots in your day when you knew she was coming in to see you."

Ma said she got to know Ms. Liu when she first participated in one of the annual music competitions held by the Chinese Fine Arts Society. She won several times as a solo pianist and also as a member of a chamber ensemble, Ma said.

"She was just an amazing little pianist, so talented," she said,

As she got older, Ms. Liu started volunteering at the society, and interned there the last couple of summers. She eventually became the coordinator of the society's Music Festival in Honor of Confucius.

Ms. Liu also performed several times on WFMT, the primary classical music station in Chicago, which rebroadcast several of her recordings on Friday, Ma said.

Whenever the society took its young performers to area nursing homes or libraries, Ms. Liu was always willing to play or accompany other musicians, Ma said. She was "such a well-rounded musician," she said.

Ms. Liu was the pride and joy of her parents, who immigrated to the United States from China, Ma said.

"This perfect little kid — so good, a great musician, the nicest kid ever, and beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous. It makes you want to hug your kids that much closer."

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