By Tracey Haney/Managing editor

Eastern graduate Yan Gu was a sweet, friendly and goal-oriented woman, according to friend and former dean of the College of Applied Arts and Technology, Glen Kleine. Kleine, a volunteer adviser to international students, met Gu, also known as “Irene,” when she came to Eastern as an exchange student from China.

During the summer Kleine faced the challenge of leading Gu’s parents through the ordeal of her death after the 24-year-old was found murdered in a ditch south of her Chicago home.

Gu’s boyfriend, Dong Zhang, 24, admitted to Jackson County, Ill. authorities he strangled Gu after he had initially filed a missing person’s report, according to a Lexington Division of Police news release.

Kleine said authorities believe it was the sight of Gu’s body when Zhang led police to her location in Seymour, Ill. that led the University of Kentucky graduate research assistant to strangle himself with a telephone cord while in custody at the Fayette County Jail.

Kleine said he’d met Zhang a few times and doesn’t believe the murder was pre-meditated. “It was probably a lover’s fight and he lost control,” Kleine said.

Gu received her master’s in business administration from Eastern in December 2003. According to Kleine, she was working in Chicago temporarily and looking for permanent employment to ensure a renewed VISA.

“She loved the United States and fit in very well,” Kleine said of Gu. “Her parents sacrificed a great deal to send her to EKU.”

Kleine said her parents were “totally distraught” at the grave sight. Gu’s body was cremated. Her father spread some of her ashes in Jacobson Park where they met an officer from Indianapolis who had driven Gu’s remains to Kentucky.

As it is Chinese tradition to spread the remains of a childless woman in symbolic locations, Gu’s father also spread her ashes in Brockton Housing where she had lived and planned to take the rest of her ashes back to China to distribute throughout locations where she grew up.

Kleine said Gu was a good student who was always looking for ways to improve her education.

He said Gu enjoyed cooking and would often bring Chinese meals to he and his wife Joan.

The Office of International Education hopes to soon set up a scholarship fund in honor of Gu.

Reach Tracy at

tracy_haney5@eku.edu