Memorial for Slain UNC Professor Held This Saturday

A memorial service will be held at 4 o’clock tomorrow at the UNC Memorial Hall in remembrance of UNC professor and cancer researcher, Feng Liu, who was robbed and fatally beaten near Ransom Street and West University Drive last Wednesday.

The Dean of UNC’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Bob Blouin, told WCHL what kind of colleague Liu was and how he will be remembered by those around him.

“I grew to know him as a wonderful, kind, gentle, but endearing personality; someone who quietly touched the lives of other faculty, staff, and students,” says Blouin. “He will be deeply missed by many.”

Liu came to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. His research interest focused on gene and drug delivery for cancer treatments.

Residents of the Westwood neighborhood where Liu was killed have started a fundraiser in his memory at

The money will go toward the newly established Feng Liu Graduate Student Award fund UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Donations can be made by mail to:

UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation
CB# 7296
194 Finley Golf Course Road, Suite 106
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

You can give directly to the fund here.

Flowers, cards and condolences can be sent to the Liu family at:

The Liu family
c/o UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
301 Pharmacy Lane Suite 100
Chapel Hill NC 27599-7355

Six Weeks Later: Awaiting UNC Student’s Official Cause Of Death

Six weeks after a 21-year-old UNC student died of what appears to be cardiac arrest, there still aren’t any official answers from the North Carolina medical examiner.

John Pharr (courtesy of

John Pharr (Courtesy of

“The medical examiner reached out to us within 24 hours of his death and was very gracious,” says John Pharr, the father of Harris Granger Pharr. He was speaking with WCHL Thursday from Prague on a trip to Amsterdam. “He said, ‘it is unusual; we do do a pretty thorough investigation and certainly when the decedent is of the age of what Harris was’. He estimated the time of death and said, ‘in my professional opinion, he certainly died of cardiac arrest, and the cause of that I have no idea’. He said, ‘I do not suspect foul play and examined the body extensively for signs of drug abuse etc’, and he said, ‘I found none’. So, we’re not pressing for answers.”

John is the Senior Vice President and Senior Market Officer for Raleigh’s Regency Centers, a commercial property developer, owner, and operator.

Harris Granger Pharr (Courtesy of Facebook)

Harris Granger Pharr (Courtesy of Facebook)

Harris, a rising senior biomedical engineering major and member of the Alpha Chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity, died in his bed at around five or six in the morning of June 19 at his college residence at 500 Pittsboro Street. The residence is across the street from the UNC School of Public Health, where Pittsboro Street and Manning Drive split, and John says it was a house that held close to ten students.

Harris’ father described him as a “pretty intense guy” when it came to academics. He says he would often find him up late studying when he was at home in Raleigh, sometimes until three or four in the morning.

He says he believes one contributing factor to his death may have been the activity he took upon himself to accomplish the night before.

“One of the upstairs rooms had become available, and he wanted to move his whole setup into that room,” Pharr says. “That was about 6:00 at night. I understand he accomplished that all himself without any help, which would have been physically stressful.”

However, he says it’s hard to believe that alone would force a 21-year-old into a cardiac arrest.

The News and Observer published a story on May 24 that shared legislators’ concerns about the state medical examiner’s system inadequacies. That story came after the N&O investigated “thousands of faulty investigations into suspicious deaths”.

Part of the story stated, “An Observer investigation…found that medical examiners rarely go to death scenes and sometimes don’t look at bodies in cases they handle. The state requires no training and seldom disciplines examiners who break the rules. The state also conducts fewer autopsies than leading systems, which experts say makes it harder to determine the correct causes of death.”

In multiple emails to WCHL Thursday, the ME’s office said the time it takes to complete a case can vary, and that the level of testing required could extend it. John says he was told it could take up to 90 days to get an official result. The ME’s office said it couldn’t release any information until the case was complete.

John adds that not everyone is being as patient as he is.

“He had life insurance,” Pharr says. “The life insurance company I do know contacted the medical examiner. They’re trying to get the medical examiner to make a statement of fact that his death was not as a result of foul play. If somebody was responsible, then they go after that person with regards to the pursuit of an insurance claim.”

The Chapel Hill Police Department ruled in its investigation that foul play was not suspected.

Harris’ body was cremated, and family and friends held a funeral at the First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh on June 25.

UNC Asks Federal Court To Hear Willingham Lawsuit

UNC is asking that the lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims retaliation against her speaking out should be heard by a federal court and not on the county level.

According to WRAL, the University asked North Carolina’s Eastern District of Federal Court to pick up the case filed by former academic adviser Mary Willingham because the claim she is making falls under federal law, not state law.

Willingham has said the University put player eligibility for financial benefit above academic integrity. She claimed she was never properly listened to by UNC and then took her claims to the media.

She said the retaliation came when she was told she was going to be demoted and given additional duties. Her role, she said, was also changed from advising undergraduate student-athletes to senior graduate students. Lastly, she described the office to which she had to move as “poor”.

Willingham resigned from Carolina on May 6. She first said she had made the decision to leave on April 21 after an hour-long meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt. She said the conversation made her realize there was no more she could do at UNC and that she wanted to continue her fight to correct problems with intercollegiate athletics elsewhere. Along with the lawsuit, she has asked the University System Board of Governors for reinstatement.

Hundreds Gather for Vigil Honoring Slain UNC Professor Feng Liu

Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil, just a few blocks from where UNC Professor Feng Liu was murdered a week earlier.

Feng Liu

Feng Liu

“We should not be here today,” said Tony Yao, president of the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina. “Something…something is wrong with our community, something that has prevented Professor Feng Liu from enjoying another beautiful day of the life, family, and work.”

Dedicated scientist, humble man of achievement, generous friend, devoted husband, proud father, excited grandfather-to-be, wise counsel, drinking buddy, golf partner, and contributor to a better world.

As Tony Yao, president of the Chinese-American Friendship Association of North Carolina paid tribute to his fallen friend, UNC Professor of Molecular Pharmaceutics Feng Liu at the beginning of Wednesday night’s candlelight vigil, he included many of those things in his description.

Other friends, colleagues and admirers who spoke at the event on Pittsboro Street did too, And many, like Yao, expressed the same outrage at the circumstances of Liu’s death.

Corner of Ransom St and West University Dr (courtesy of Google Maps)

Corner of Ransom St and West University Dr (courtesy of Google Maps)

It was exactly one week since the 59-year-old professor was found lying on the ground with blood pouring from his head on West University Drive near the Ransom Street intersection. He was mugged, and his attackers hit him on the head with a rock. Liu died from his injuries.

The two accused assailants, Troy Arrington. Jr. and Derick Davis II, are being held on charges of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

At Wednesday’s vigil, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt spoke near a flowing fountain that did its best to comfort the audience. Behind her and other speakers at the entrance of the FedEx Global Communication Center, a table had been set up with flowers, and a framed picture of Liu smiling – he was a great smiler, one friend recalled.

Two nights earlier, Folt met with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt in her office to discuss public safety concerns, as the UNC community mourned a shocking loss.

As she spoke to those assembled to honor Liu, Folt reaffirmed the university’s commitment to keeping faculty and students safe.

“As we go forward today in his honor, I know we want to concentrate about him, and his legacy, and what he has meant for our community, but also with his work, for so many people throughout the world” said Folt. “But I also do want to tell you that there is nothing, nothing more important than the safety of our campus and our community. And as we go forward, that too will be part of everything we do in the coming days.”

Liu came to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy in 2005. His research interest was in developing methods to deliver drugs to cancer cells.

His colleague Xio Xio, who knew Liu from his days at the University of Pittsburgh, remembered him as an excellent teacher and role model for students. He said Liu was also a great scientist whose achievements were felt around the world.

One of those achievements is the hydrodynamic method, a breakthrough in gene therapy.

“It’s used by hundreds of labs over the world,” said Xio. “I think many labs at UNC also use that technology. The paper was cited more then 1,200 times. That kind of achievement can rarely be matched by scientists in the world. But Feng was always a humble and modest man. He never bragged about it.”

Xio mentioned the Chinese tradition of paying tribute to the dead on the seventh day of their passing. Liu’s family couldn’t be present, he added, because they were in Asheville, where half of Liu’s ashes will be spread somewhere in the mountains. The other half will be placed in Liu’s hometown in China, near the graves of his parents.

Another reason Liu’s family is in Asheville is that Liu’s daughter had an appointment for a pre-natal checkup there. She’s due in less than two months, and as Xio reminded the somber crowd, the closest Liu ever came to seeing his granddaughter was in an ultrasound image.

Another colleague, Jun Li, spoke with emotion about his slain friend. He said he now avoids walking past Liu’s office, for fear that he’ll break down in tears.

Li talked about the trauma suffered by the entire UNC community. he said that the site of Liu’s murder is a street where many of his co-workers at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy also take regular walks around lunchtime.

“My wife and my little daughter also walk that way,” said Li. “it’s not a bad place. But it just happens to Dr. Liu.”

After about 45 minutes of tributes, it was time for mourners to walk to that once-unremarkable place, after candles had been lit, and Chinese liquor had been poured in front of the table in Liu’s honor, and all of the guests had bowed three times toward his picture.

The eight-minute walk was quiet, and orderly, and mourners were accompanied by a few Chapel Hill police on bicycles.

Darkness fell as people arrived at Ransom Street and West University Drive, and many heavy sighs and gasps were audible as flowers were left at the murder site on West University.

They were the sounds of disbelief at the senseless crime committed here, on a quiet, familiar street, at the tree-lined edge of someone’s front yard, in the middle of a sunny day.

Vigil, Memorial Service For Slain UNC Professor Feng Liu

Originally posted 1:15 p.m., July 29, 2014

A vigil for slain UNC Professor Feng Liu will be held UNC’s Campus on Wednesday, exactly one week after he was robbed and fatally beaten near the corner of West University Drive and Ransom Street.

The vigil takes place from 7:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the FedEx Global Communication Center, located at 301 Pittsboro Street. It’s sponsored by the Chinese-American Friendship Association. Liu was a native of China.

There will be a memorial service for him on Saturday at UNC’s Memorial Hall at 4 p.m.

Liu came to the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005. His research interest was in gene and drug delivery for cancer treatments.

Residents of the Westwood neighborhood where Liu was killed have started a fundraiser in his memory at

The money will go toward the newly established Feng Liu Graduate Student Award fund UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Donations can be made by mail to:
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation
CB# 7296
194 Finley Golf Course Road, Suite 106
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

You can give directly to the fund here.

Flowers, cards and condolences can be sent to the Liu family at:

The Liu family
c/o UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
301 Pharmacy Lane Suite 100
Chapel Hill NC 27599-7355

Accidental Alarm Registration; “Better Back Care”; August Pet Adoption

If you’re in Chapel Hill and you haven’t registered your alarm yet, now is the time to do it.

Chapel Hill’s Accidental Alarm Program went into effect on July 1 – and since then, more than 1600 residents and more than 650 businesses have registered their alarms, as required.

The program is designed to cut down on the costs associated with emergency workers having to respond to false alarms. The town will issue a fine for any unregistered alarm system or any alarm that accidentally activates more than three times in a 12-month period.

There’s no cost to register your alarm. You can do it online by visiting

UNC’s School of Medicine has won a $6 million award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Innovation Center for a program called “Better Back Care.”

The program is still in development, but the purpose is to create a “medical neighborhood” connecting 60 primary care providers with UNC’s spine program to improve care for people with back pain. It will be directed by Dr. Brian Casazza and Dr. Amy Shaheen.

UNC is one of only 39 awardees nationally – and this is the only spine-care program to be selected as an award recipient.

If you’re thinking about adopting a pet, August might be the perfect time.

As part of a “Back to School” promotion, Orange County Animal Services is reducing adoption fees by nearly 50% for cats and dogs. Cat adoptions will be $50 and dog adoptions will be $60 – and as always, all the animals are fully vaccinated, vet checked, and spayed or neutered.

The Animal Services office is on Eubanks Road in northern Chapel Hill. To see photos of the animals, visit

UNC Program Promotes Energy Awareness Among Local HS Students

The UNC Institute for the Environment is a collaborative, cross-departmental organization which focuses its research on critical issues that lie at the heart of our most pressing environmental challenges. Specific areas of focus include: sustainable communities, energy and the environment, watershed science and management, and environmental modeling.

This week the Institute is hosting 28 local high school students who will spend a week on the campus of UNC exploring topics related to current energy use, climate change, alternative energy and sustainability as part of the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP). Science educators from the UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) and the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center (MPSC) along with scientists from UNC will contribute to programming and lead hands-on sessions and lab tours. The program will enable students to take part in hands-on STEM activities such as the construction and testing of dye-sensitized solar cells and wind turbines. Students will take field trips to locations such as the UNC co-generation plant, chemistry laboratories at the UNC-based Energy Frontier Research Center and the Carolina Campus Community Garden.

Funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, this student science enrichment program is free and participants are paid a $500 stipend for attending the summer program and participating in at least four follow-up activities during the academic year. In addition, students are asked to conduct a community outreach project to educate others about energy, climate change, and/or sustainability.

The program is lead by Dana Haine, K-12 Science Education Manager for the Institute and proud member of Chapel Hill High School’s class of 1991. Haine credits her outstanding CHHS science teachers for inspiring her to pursue a career in science. In the five years that the Environmental Institute has been running the program, she has seen how it inspires students to seek out more science classes in high school and select STEM related majors in college. When not running the Climate LEAP program Haine and her colleague hold workshops for K-12 science teachers and are available as a resource for educators across the state.

The Environmental Institute provides yet another example of the broad, positive reach of UNC in our education community. It’s good to know that our aspiring scientists have programs like this one available to encourage their ambitions.

UNC Researcher Remembered As ‘Outgoing,’ ‘Passionate’ About Science

Both UNC and the wider Chapel Hill community have been devastated by the murder Dr. Feng Liu of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Born in 1955, he was a father, husband, professor, researcher, and more.

Liu earned both his BS and MS in pharmaceutics science at the Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in China, and his PhD at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. In 2005, he became part of the UNC community after being brought from Pittsburgh with a research team.

Dean of the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Bob Blouin, told WCHL what he remembers about how Dr. Liu originally became part of the UNC community and how he remembers first meeting him.

“We recruited them to help transform our school into a national leader in nanomedicine and drug delivery, and I believe that he, along with many others have actually done that,” says Blouin. “I grew to know him later as a wonderful, kind, gentle, but endearing personality; someone who quietly touched the lives of other faculty, staff, and students.”

Blouin also talked about what he will remember the most about Dr. Liu.

“He had a contagious smile,” says Blouin. “He was by nature a very outgoing personality, something that you don’t appreciate when you meet him. I think in many respects, [he] surprises people with his high level of engagement, and so it was that smile that I believe I will always remember.”

Liu was recognized throughout the U.S. and the world for his contributions to the field of molecular pharmaceuticals and his efforts to combat cancer.

When asked about what impact Liu had on his students, Blouin recalled an individual who spoke during the private memorial that was held by the School of Pharmacy on July 25.

“It was from a graduate student who simply described him as a role model,” says Blouin, “a person who had a passion for science but at the same time had the strong desire to work in an environment in which people mattered, and that he had a strong desire to not only get to know the people that he worked with, but to create a work environment in which they enjoyed coming to work everyday and working with one another.”

His colleagues knew that something was undoubtedly wrong when Dr. Liu did not return from his daily walk after lunch on Wednesday afternoon. He was later found unresponsive after being attacked at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Ransom Street and West University Drive, a mere two blocks away from UNC campus and the School of Pharmacy.

Dean Bob Blouin offered these as his final words about Dr. Feng Liu:

“Our university community is shocked by this tragedy, and he will be deeply missed by many.”

911 Call: Professor Was Breathing Before First Responders Arrived

The 911 call in response to the beating and subsequent death of a UNC professor Wednesday afternoon reveals he was alive when first responders arrived on the scene.

The following is a redacted recording of the 911 call. Listener discretion is advised.

“There is an individual laying on the street at Ransom and West University.”

“At where?” the dispatcher asked.

“Ransom and West University. Right near the intersection here,” the caller said.

Fifty-nine-year-old Feng Liu of Durham was a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. He was known by his colleagues to take walks around the southern part of campus during his lunch breaks to reenergize.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said a Town employee was one of the first to arrive to find that the professor had been attacked. He added that even members of the police department were shocked by the random crime that claimed the young professor’s life.

When the caller arrived to find Liu laying in the street, already there were signs of concern.

“And he’s just laying in the street?” the dispatcher asked.

“He’s kind of laying to the side, breathing hard. And he’s breathing and there were two gentlemen here when I pulled around the corner and there are couple of other people hanging out here now,” the caller said.

The dispatcher asked the caller to wait, then the caller went on to say, “According to a lady here who is pre-med, there is blood coming out of his nose and his mouth – and his ears.”

“There’s blood coming out of his nose and his ears?” the dispatcher asked.

“His ears, yes ma’am.”

The dispatcher asked his age,

“He looks like he’s in his mid-30s,” the caller said.

The dispatcher then asked if the man was awake.

“No, he’s unconscious. He’s not responding,” the caller said.

“He’s unconscious?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Is he breathing?”

“He is breathing, yes ma’am.”

“Is his breathing completely normal?”

“It sounds hard but he is breathing.”

First responders arrived and attended to Liu. He was transported to UNC Hospitals just a few blocks away. According to the News and Observer, prosecutors said Liu was hit in the head with a rock. He died the next morning as a result of serious head injuries.

The call also revealed that a number of people responded to the area in a reasonable amount of time, leading to ask the question of why the assailants chose that location and that time to take those actions.

Chapel Hill Police received enough information from someone who said they witnessed suspicious activity in the area to apprehend the suspects and arrest them Wednesday evening.

Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham and Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill were arrested and charged with first degree murder, felony robbery, and assault. They’re being held at the Orange County jail without bond.

UNC Receives Second-Highest Fundraising Total

UNC was given its second-highest fundraising total through gifts and grants in fiscal year 2014, despite a complete change in leadership.

Chancellor Carol Folt began her tenure as the 11th chancellor of the University. In her first year, she developed and hired her executive staff, completing the process with the hiring of Matthew Fajack as the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration beginning this fall.

The University received $297.5 million last year, which is a nine-percent increase from the previous year.

Chancellor Carol Folt says that speaks a great deal about the supporters of the University that continued giving through a time that was mired in an academic scandal.

“When I look at those numbers, I think it tells me that, first of all, there’s an amazing commitment to Carolina,” Chancellor Folts says. “To be raising at that level before you go into a campaign is unusual. That means people really care.”

Commitments, which include pledges as well as gifts, also rose by nine percent, from $248.3 million to $310 million. The commitments helped create five endowed professorships in addition to 58 undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships.

Board of Trustees Chair Lowry Caudill says the numbers speak for themselves.

“I think it’s an absolutely fantastic thing,” Caudill said. “We had a transition in leadership last year. The fact that we were able to move through that year and have one of the highest fundraising years we’ve had in University history—that tells you something about the good things that are happening at Carolina and how people really think about Carolina.”

To see the complete breakdown of last year’s fundraising at Carolina, click here.