Yiran Fan, Ph.D. student ‘beloved by all who knew him,’ 1990-2021

University of Chicago community mourns loss of exceptional scholar and kind friend

Members of the University of Chicago community are mourning the loss of graduate student Yiran Fan, SM’15, and remembering him as an exceptional student, talented scholar and beloved friend.

A 30-year-old Ph.D. student in a joint program of the Booth School of Business and the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics, Fan was shot and killed on Jan. 9. A candlelight vigil will be held in remembrance of Fan on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. CST, with a live broadcast available on the UChicago News site.

“This sudden and senseless loss of life causes us indescribable sorrow,” wrote President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee C. Lee in a message to the campus community. “In the days ahead, we will come together as a community to mourn, and to lift up fellow members of our community in this difficult and very sad time.”

Fan came from China to the University in 2014 to study in the financial mathematics program, having already completed a bachelor’s degree in finance from Peking University and a master’s degree in financial engineering from the University of Cambridge. After earning a master’s degree at UChicago in 2015, he served as a research professional at the Fama-Miller Center for Research in Finance. He was in the fourth year of a joint Booth/Economics Ph.D. program in financial economics and was hoping to propose his dissertation later this year.

“Yiran is remembered as a smart and incredibly talented student, highly respected by his peers and beloved by all who knew him,” said Chicago Booth Dean Madhav Rajan in a message to the school community.

Fan worked closely with Zhiguo He, the Fuji Bank and Heller Professor of Finance and Jeuck Faculty Fellow, and contributed to projects about the interaction of bankers’ assets and liability management, as well as studying screening competition under flexible information acquisition.

“Yiran had every trait to be a rising star in a few years,” He said. “As an intuitive thinker on deep economic questions, he was recognized as super smart, extremely diligent and extraordinarily persevering. We just started working on something, and I never thought the journey would end so suddenly like this.”

“I got to know Yiran very well and considered him family,” said George M. Constantinides, the Leo Melamed Professor of Finance, for whom Fan served as a research professional on two projects. “Yiran was one of our brightest PhD students with a brilliant future ahead of him. He was very kind and considerate. I will miss him dearly.”

Fellow PhD classmate Yang Su fondly remembered their frequent conversations about research and life, and how Fan would often talk about his family in China. “I thought of Yiran as a lifelong friend and research partner,” said Su. “We used to talk a lot about ideas and theories, and we could always understand each other perfectly. One does not meet many people like that.”

Fan also served as a teaching assistant at Booth during the Autumn Quarter, and he served as the Fama-Miller Professional Development Fellow for the 2020–21 academic year, working with current researchers on their professional development.

“Yiran was an invaluable intellectual resource among our economics and finance community, always showing a deep commitment to help his fellow graduate students learn,” said Lars Peter Hansen, the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, Statistics and the Booth School of Business.

Hansen added that Fan was “well on his way to writing an exceptional dissertation” using the tools and insights from corporate finance theory and economic dynamics to study the role for the oversight of financial institutions and markets.

“I often remark that I count our best graduate students among my very best colleagues on campus, and Yiran certainly qualified as a superb colleague as well as a wonderful person,” said Hansen.

Robert Shimer, chair of the University’s Department of Economics and the Alvin H. Baum Professor, remembered Fan for his “insightful and rigorous” analyses and for his “extraordinary performance” in his Theory of Income class. Fan received the top grade in the macroeconomics core examination during his first year, and “continued to excel after that,” Shimer said.

“Graduate students know Yiran as a talented classmate, a superb teaching assistant and a kind friend,” said Shimer. “Faculty recognize him as an exceptional research assistant, student and scholar.”

Outside of his research, Fan was an active participant and organizer of a student workshop in macroeconomics and finance, and often provided helpful comments on the work of his classmates.

“Yiran was held in high regard by all who knew him—students, staff and faculty here at Booth and the University,” said Malaina Brown, director of the Ph.D. Program at Chicago Booth. “He will be deeply missed.”

Fan is survived by his father, Chenggang Fan, and his mother, Chunzhi Xu.

In partnership with the Fan family, the University of Chicago is establishing a fund in memory of Yiran Fan to support students in the joint program of Chicago Booth and the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics. To contribute, call 773-702-7747 or visit http://ChicagoBooth.edu/memorial-gift and choose the memorial gift option in the drop-down menu to honor Yiran Fan. The University will send correspondence on your behalf to the family acknowledging your gift.

—This story was also published on the Booth School of Business website.