The campus community has suffered another loss. Las Positas College student Ke Zhang, a fixture on campus, died on Jan. 22 at the age of 86.
After one of his classes, Zhang collapsed near the back of the 2400 building by the steps facing the quad. Paramedics rushed to campus and attempted to revive him, but to no avail. Zhang’s funeral service was held Feb. 9 at Graham Hitch Mortuary in Pleasanton.
Students who knew Zhang remembered him as a warm and welcome presence on campus.
“Ke was a really beautiful addition to the campus community,” said Florence Hinkle, a classmate of Zhang. “He always brought snacks to share, his stories were fascinating and his love for learning new things made him fun to be around and have in class. I will miss his sense of humor.”
Zhang came to LPC in 2014 after attending classes at Laney College in Oakland. His focus was to complete all the general education requirements with an eye towards transferring to the University of
California, Berkeley. He also took many literature and writing classes.
Zhang was profiled in a 2014 issue of The Express, which noted his WWII-era bike that made the trip with him to America. It also chronicled his love of basketball, which he began playing as a youth in China and even played recreationally at LPC well into his 80s.
“I loved (basketball) very much when I was a little boy,” Zhang said in the story. “I played basketball, and I was maybe pretty good.”
Zhang was born in Henan Province in 1933 and experienced the Japanese occupation of China during World War II as a boy. He graduated from university as an engineering major at age 19 and worked as a special machine designer in a Beijing automobile factory. He helped make Jeeps for the American Motors Corporation.
Zhang was a bit of a marvel at LPC. He was known for being friendly and well-liked, for asking good questions and for his incredible life story spanning time and countries. He demonstrated the importance of fellowship and diversity.
“The students as a whole really enjoyed him when he was at school,” said Diana Navarro-Kleinschmidt, the school’s Library Services Specialist. “Ke was a caring person and would bring in food to the library and for his classmates to share.”
This point was echoed by student Helena Ellis Do Amaral.
“Ke was a hard worker when it comes to his studies,” she said. “He was always in the library working on this homework. He was a great person to be around because he would make his friends laugh and when his friends were having a bad day, he was always there to cheer them up.”
Zhang is survived by his wife Huiwen Sun, daughters Connie Lien and Lu Zhang as well as granddaughter Evelyn Zhang.
Brandon Byrne is the public relations manager for The Express. Follow him at @brandonbyrne18. Travis Danner contributed to this report.