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Architecture student Vivian Guan, 20, dies in train accident

By Dixita Viswanath     8/28/13 7:00pm

Vivian Ziwei Guan, Sid Richardson College junior, 20, was fatally struck by a train around 8 a.m. on July 22 when she crossed the tracks while riding her bike at the intersection of Main and Walker St., and was pronounced dead upon EMS arrival, according to Vice President and Senior Press Officer of METRO Jerome Gray. She had just gotten off the northbound train and was struck by the southbound train at the intersection. The METRO Police Department is continuing to investigate the accident, Gray said.  

An architecture major, Guan was employed as an intern at Ziegler Cooper Architects, where she worked with Rice alumnus Scott Ziegler (Master of Architecture '76). According to Ziegler, Guan was an enthusiastic, engaging and curious student, capable of finishing any task given to her.

"I knew from my first meeting that Vivian was on an important trajectory to do something special with her life because she cares about people and the world about her," Ziegler said. "She had a way with people that was so genuine, that she made you feel special, [taking on] each task with a sense of grace and dignity."



Ziegler said that Ziegler Cooper Architects has renamed their annual scholarship to an outstanding Rice architecture student in honor of Guan.

"This scholarship will allow students, like Vivian, to travel the world and see with their own eyes how inspiring architecture can build a better world," Ziegler said. 

Will Rice College junior William Choi led a summer house church that Guan attended frequently. Choi said Guan started coming this summer and immediately integrated herself into the group.

"She had this quirky [and] unique personality that made you feel like you've known her for a long time, even if you only met her for the first time," Choi said. 

Sid Rich junior Henry Anderson described Guan as a kind, compassionate and boundlessly happy friend.

"The weirdest and most wonderful part is that so much of this was apparent when people first met her," Anderson said. "Unlike most people where you have to spend a few months getting to know them before you really see who they are at a very basic level, with Vivian you could tell after just a few conversations."

According to Sarah Whiting, Dean of the School of Architecture, Guan went to elementary school in San Francisco and then moved with her family to Auckland, New Zealand, where she attended high school. Over the past two years, Guan helped design a toy museum, a single family home, a museum in Galveston and a winery, Whiting said. 

"Vivian was like a sponge, made entirely of optimism: absorbing everything around her and radiating possibility," Whiting said at Guan's memorial service held June 26 at Rice Memorial Chapel. "The tragedy that happened this week was having that possibility cut short."

Guan's home church in San Francisco hosted a memorial service for her family and friends, Whiting said. Rice University, in conjunction with the Dean of Undergraduates and the masters of Sid Rich, are working to arrange a memorial open to the Rice community planned for Friday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. in the Rice Chapel with a reception afterwards at Sid Richardson College. 

McMurtry College junior Ellen Marsh said Guan has taught her to live creatively.

"During studio lectures, Vivian would make these tiny origami hearts or stars and tap you on the shoulder, have you close your eyes, and drop them in your hands," Marsh said. "I kept every paper gift she made, [and it] reminds me to think originally no matter what [I'm] doing."

According to Marsh, Guan was highly involved in the Rice community. She often volunteered for working security for public parties as well as being highly involved in the Chinese Student Association and campuswide community service events including standing up for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Marsh said that Guan's true passion was in architectural events through RSA. 

In a campuswide email July 22, Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson wrote, "We all extend our heartfelt sympathy to Vivian's family and friends. Please remember that it's important that we support and comfort one another as we grieve, and the Rice Counseling Center is always available to students for additional support."



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