CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WGHP) — Thousands of people gathered at the Dean Smith dome at UNC-Chapel Hill Wednesday night to remember the life of associate professor Zijie Yan, who police say was shot and killed by a graduate student Monday afternoon.  

The vigil served to bring the Carolina community together and to try and find a way to move forward as classes resume tomorrow morning.  

Professor Yan was a father of two very young daughters, and his mother and wife both sat in the front row of the arena and saw firsthand the support the community had for them.  

5,000 students, faculty and staff gathered Wednesday night to comfort one another, honor the life of Professor Yen and find the strength to move forward after a harrowing week on the beautiful UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

The vigil offered insight into who Professor Yen was as his colleagues described him as studious, an avid researcher and someone who enjoyed being a mentor and a beloved husband and father.

Students wore white ribbons in his honor and lit candles and turned their cell phone flashlights on in a powerful moment of reflection and a somber step forward.  

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“He was one of the kindest persons I have ever met. He was soft-spoken, a great listener … had a great sense of humor. On Monday … all of this came to an end. Zijie’s family and his students have to move on without him … The APS department has lost a wonderful colleague,” said Theo Dingemans, chair of the Applied Physics Department.  

With classes and activities resuming Thursday, campus leaders urged everyone to give each other grace and compassion and to reach out for help if they need it.  

“As we work to rebuild and strengthen our community together in the days and weeks ahead, I encourage you to continue supporting your fellow Tar Heels. We need each other,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said.