Chang-Yun (Charlie) Fan (1918-2009)
Dr. Chang-Yun Fan
Chang-Yun "Charlie" Fan died quietly and unexpectedly at home after 91 active years of health and happiness, marred only by a final, brief battle with cancer.
He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Tsung-Ying "June" Teng; daughters, Paula and Anna; son, Michael and his wife, Melanie; grandsons, Steven and David and a lively extended family. Charlie will be remembered for his charm and gentle good humor by a host of colleagues, former students and friends, many of who celebrated his long life and scientific achievements exactly one year ago with a symposium and banquet in his honor entitled "Fanfare!"
Charlie loved life, his family, science, gardening, history, Tang poetry and China, where he was born into a peasant family in Jiangsu. War was the catalyst for his arrival in 1947 at the University of Chicago, where he earned his Ph.D. in Physics. He thoroughly enjoyed research; he took great pride in the inclusion of one of his first publications in the Dover collection of outstanding papers on cosmic ray origin theories and was recognized as a pioneer in space physics and innovative experimentalist in atomic physics.
His interest in people was reflected in his mentoring and teaching at the University of Arizona from 1967, extending well beyond his retirement in the late 1980's as Professor Emeritus. As one of the first Chinese-Americans to visit the People's Republic of China following Nixon's 1972 groundbreaking trip, Charlie paved the way for cooperation between Chinese and American scientists, giving his last lecture in Beijing in May 2008. He was active in the US-China Peoples Friendship Association to the end of his life, returning to his homeland more than 30 times.
A kind man who would apologize to roadkill, a simple man who joked that academics who insisted on being addressed as "Doctor" probably didn't deserve the title in the first place, Charlie Fan approached both life and death with a clear mind, dignity, humor, tolerance, curiosity, courage, and a deep love for family and friends. He lives on as a model for us all.
Special thanks go to Charles Curtis, Jean Chao, Tifen Wang; cousins, Johnny and Shigeko Hsieh and to Christine Rusiniak for helping hands and warm hearts.
The family plans to establish an annual award in support of conference travel for an outstanding University of Arizona Physics student selected to present original research. Memorial contributions to the department in lieu of flowers may be sent to Dr. K.C. Hsieh, University of Arizona, Department of Physics, PO Box 210081, Tucson, AZ 85721.
Arizona Daily Star, January 24, 2009.
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Page last updated: January 28, 2009