Li-Hong Xu passed away peacefully in the presence of her family on Monday, January 21, 2019, at the Saint John Regional Hospital, after a brave battle with cancer. She is the beloved wife of Ronald Lees, loving mother of Miranda and Alex (Erica), and proud grandma of Joshua. She is also loved by her older sister Xiaohong, nephew Weiwei, cousins Jin, Jian and Auntie Feng, and by her extended family - Irene Vavasour (Jeff), Tom Lees (Heather), sister-in-law Irene (Ron), Elaine (Waheed), Lee (Eugenia) and late grandmother Dora.
Li-Hong was born on May 2, 1957 in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. She was known to be a diligent student starting early on in her schooling despite the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. After the Cultural Revolution, she relied on countless hours of self-studying to succeed in the National University Entrance Exam, and entered the undergraduate physics program at Suzhou University. She graduated with highest honours, and was one of the two students chosen out of 240 graduates to be appointed as an assistant professor at her alma mater.
In 1988, she earned the opportunity to come to the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton to pursue postgraduate studies in physics. She obtained her Ph.D. in 1992, and was then invited to pursue postdoctoral work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington, DC. In 1994, Professor Xu joined the Physics Department at UNBSJ, and had an outstanding career as a teacher and researcher. She received the faculty award for excellence in teaching in 2015, and a President’s Distinguished Service Award in 2017. Her research in molecular spectroscopy was highly respected internationally and she was invited to present plenary lectures at both of the major conferences in her field in Europe and the US, a remarkable achievement. Her abilities were also recognized by NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. She chaired the Grant Selection Committee in General Physics for two years, and was appointed as the Group Chair for Physics from 2013-2016, overseeing the granting programs for the entire Canadian physics community!
One of Li-Hong’s special interest was supporting women in physics. In the Canadian Association of Physicists she chaired CEWIP, the Committee to Encourage Women in Physics, and was a member of the CAP delegations to international Women in Physics conferences in Korea and South Africa. Locally, she organized workshops for girls at the public library and outreach trips to local schools, served as a judge in science fairs, and participated in activities of CAGIS, the Canadian Association for Girls in Science.
Li-Hong was also very active within the Saint John community, serving as President of the Chinese Cultural Association of Saint John, founder and Director of the Asian Heritage Society NB Saint John Chapter, and member of the Saint John Community Arts Board and the Imperial Theatre Board. She loved music and performed on violin with the school district Senior String Orchestra, the Altomare community orchestra, and the Ceol ceilidh band. She also served as coordinator of the Music program of the Lorenzo Society arranging concerts at UNBSJ, sang with the DalMed/UNB Heartbeat choir, danced with the Jasmine Chinese ladies’ dance group, and taught tai-chi at The Studio. In 2009, she received a Cultural Infusion Award from Uptown Saint John, followed by a Cheers to Volunteers 2016 Award in Community Development and a Cultural Diversity Champion Award from PRUDE Inc. in 2017, recognizing her many contributions to developing strong community life in Saint John.
Li-Hong's life was characterized by her resilience in scientific pursuit of excellence, dedication to a broad range of community involvements, and most importantly, the selfless loving care of her family and friends. Special thanks are extended to the family and friends that supported our family during this difficult journey, and to the healthcare angels for their loving care.
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Brenan’s Bay View Funeral Home, 1461 Manawagonish Road, Saint John (634-7425). Visitation will be held from 6:00 – 8:00 pm on Friday, February 15, followed by a Celebration of Life on Saturday, February 16, at 2:00 pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Li-Hong may be made to the University of N.B. (Scholarships Saint John Campus project 2010U02) or to the Oncology unit and/or Palliative Care unit c/o the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation.