Nicholas Zi Zheng Wang came to Canada from China with his parents when he was six years old. He embraced life in this country, taking up fishing, including ice fishing, and trying his luck in lakes across the province. It was something the Wang family did together. Family was important. When Mr. Wang was accepted at York University’s Schulich School of Business, the whole family rejoiced. On Oct. 22, while in his third year as a BBA student, Mr. Wang died after a brief and sudden illness. He was 20.
His mother, Nancy, remembers how dedicated to the family her son was. Every June on his sister’s birthday, Mr. Wang would stay home to barbecue the food for her party. It didn’t matter how busy he was with his schooling or work, says his mother. “He always made sure he stayed home that day for his sister’s barbecue.” His sister is now 10, his brother 7.
“He was always helping the family a lot,” says Nancy. “He was very responsible, taking care of his brother and sister.” He was attentive and thoughtful.
Mr. Wang was also the vacation planner for his family. Every year when they chose a different place to explore in the United States, Mr. Wang organized everything, making sure there was plenty to do to keep his siblings and his parents happy and interested. “He was a really good son,” says his mother. “We were always together.”
Mr. Wang also excelled at school and had a wide circle of friends. “The school has lost one of its most promising undergraduate students,” wrote Schulich Dean Dezsö J. Horváth in a letter to the community.
Mr. Wang was vice-president of corporate relations for the Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce (AIESEC) at York and National Business to Business Corporate Marketing Analyst for AIESEC Canada. Mr. Wang was passionate about helping fellow students through AIESEC.
As fourth-year BBA student Billy Lai says, “Above all, Nicholas will be remembered as a leader we all looked up to, with a sharp mind, business savvy and genuine compassion for his fellow peers. While achieving marked academic success, he always found time to contribute back to the community through AIESEC, a global non-profit organization that develops youth leaders through international internships. Nicholas’ legacy will forever live on in the lives of those who have embarked on the internships he has created through corporate outreach activities. He will be sorely missed by the AIESEC York community and members from across AIESEC Canada.”
Mr. Wang also received praise for his involvement with AIESEC York from provincial Premier Kathleen Wynne, who sent him a personal message in July commending him on his involvement with AIESEC York.
“Nicholas was very proud of his participation in the Undergraduate Business Council’s (UBC) Schulich Protégé Program,” wrote Horváth. “This UBC initiative matches incoming first-year undergraduate students with an upper-year undergraduate mentor in order to ease the transition period between high school and university.”
In addition, he was an “excellent student.” He was on the Dean’s Honour List for both first and second year. “It is no surprise, therefore, that Nicholas and classmate Francie Fernandes recently won the first round of the ‘Next Great Apprentice’ Marketing Case Competition organized by the York Marketing Association. The first round consisted of 30 teams, 15 of which advanced to the second round,” says Horváth.
“Nick and I worked as partners for the YMA’s Apprentice Case Competition. Competing against 24 other talented Schulich duos, we presented the winning brand revival strategy as judged by Canada Bread executives,” says Fernandes, a third-year BBA student. “Having Nick as a partner was an absolute pleasure. Despite his hectic schedule around the time of the competition, he always made time for us to meet and lend his unique strategic mind to the task.”
Mr. Wang was looking forward to starting his career in marketing. He’d completed two summers working in the Business Advisory Services unit of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.
Comments on Mr. Wang’s Facebook demonstrate how he will be missed and how he touched others with his generosity, willingness to help and his smile.
Some of the comments include: “Your amazing spirit and humour brighten everyone around you, I don’t think anyone could be unhappy if you were present; the world has truly lost one of a kind. A successful, funny and intelligent young man; You always brightened the room with your smile; Nick I miss you already…miss our chats together. You were one of the first few people who helped, welcomed and supported me upon my arrival to Canada. You were so energetic, ambitious, passionate and friendly; Thank you for always giving us a reason to smile … inspiring us to be better, and giving us memories that will last forever; We will always celebrate your light and life the way you gave us a reason to celebrate each day of our lives.”
His mother says friends, teachers and professors came from across Canada, as far as British Columbia, during mid-terms to his funeral Oct. 25 to pay their respects and say goodbye to a dear friend. There was standing room only. She was happy to see them there and hear them tell their own stories of Mr. Wang, how positive he was, how happy and helpful. “In my picture, he is the perfect person,” says his mother.
The UBC and AIESEC York are planning to hold a memorial for Mr. Wang in the near future. The UBC is also working toward dedicating a park bench in the Schulich courtyard in his memory.
As one person on Facebook posted: “Our deepest condolences to Nicholas’ family. Thank you for giving us an incredible individual who will live on in the hearts of those he impacted forever.”
The flags at the Keele and Glendon campuses will fly at half-mast in his honour, from 8am on Wednesday, Nov. 12, until 1pm on Thursday, Nov. 13.