ASU creates memorial fund and page for deceased professor

Junseok Chae went missing in March, now those who knew him can write tributes and make donations in his honor

A memorial page and fund for Junseok Chae, a professor and associate dean for research at the Fulton Schools of Engineering who was killed in March, has been created by ASU to allow former colleagues and students to write tributes dedicated to him and to celebrate his life and legacy.

Chae joined the University as a professor in 2005, according to the memorial page. He would quickly become a favorite among his coworkers and students for his hard work, friendliness and caring attitude, those who knew him said.

For many of his students, Chae inspired them. He was always helpful, pushed them to learn and “was the embodiment of the things he encouraged you to do,” said Ryan Szalanski, an electrical engineering senior who took classes with Chae and worked in his lab.

“He was always very passionate about his work and tried to instill the same keen interest in research in all his students,” said Sule Ozev in an email, a professor at the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering who was Chae’s office neighbor. “He took his time to explain every concept, trying to answer questions from multiple angles — sometimes multiple times — and always patiently.”

The school also established a memorial fund where donations will be used to support “graduate students in their research and goals to successfully complete their degrees,” Lanelle Strawder, manager of content and public relations at the Fulton School, said in an email.

“As a strong advocate for students, Chae worked tirelessly to help students through his classes, to conduct their research in the lab, and to build industry connections,” Strawder said. “He built strong relationships with industry partners, aiding many students to establish connections and find work opportunities after graduation.”

A University spokesperson said the funds collected will be used for tuition, training assistance, travel expenses, conference support or research equipment needs. An endowed fund will be created in his honor if the memorial fund collects a total of $25,000 to help support graduate students in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. 

Chae disappeared in March, and those who knew him were immediately concerned. He was later found dead in the Northwest Regional Landfill in Surprise, Arizona. Two teenagers have been charged for his murder, according to the Associated Press

“Dr. Chae was a great student advocate, strong researcher and top faculty member who engaged ASU and the larger research community through his inspirational work,” Strawder said. “The page was inspired by an outpouring of remembrances by Dr. Chae’s peers, his students, and the leadership within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.”

As an undergraduate, Szalanski said he never thought he would be able to contribute to research in a lab. But Chae gave him that opportunity and took the time to guide and help him and the other students he worked with.

“He opened up new possibilities for me,” Szalanski said. “They were always there but I had never thought I could do that. The way he encouraged me to do things … he opened up those possibilities more and showed it is possible to do those things.”

Ozev and Szalanski both hope the Memoriam site and fund will help those who know Chae to share their memories of him and provide the opportunity for people to help fund the research and goals the graduate students who Chae worked with for so many years at ASU have.

“You find personalities larger than life in an academic environment,” Ozev said. “It is hard to find a person who has humility and can get along with everyone else. Junseok was such a person. This is a huge loss for our community and words cannot express my sadness.”


Reach the reporter at wmyskow@asu.edu and follow @wmyskow on Twitter. 

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