Published November 8, 2016
Jiyuan Yu, professor of philosophy and director of UB’s Confucius Institute, died Nov. 3 in Hospice Buffalo after a battle with colon cancer. He was 52.
Yu joined the UB philosophy faculty in 1997, specializing in ancient Chinese and Greek philosophy. He also served as director of UB’s Confucius Institute, which promotes the study of Chinese language and culture throughout Western New York.
Stephen Dunnett, professor and vice provost for international education and chair of the Confucius Institute’s Board of Advisors, called Yu an “outstanding” director of the institute. “Under his dedicated leadership, the Institute developed a stronger academic focus, with many of its activities and resources directed toward promoting programs for UB students, faculty and the UB libraries,” Dunnett says. “He was a kind, generous and highly ethical man, and a noted scholar in his field. He will not easily be replaced.”
Yu was highly regarded as a philosopher, teacher, scholar and leader. He was the recipient of the UB Exceptional Scholar (Young Investigator) Award, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Excellence in Teaching Award and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
A prolific writer, his major publications in English included ”The Structure of Being in Aristotle’s Metaphysics,” “The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue,” “The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy” (co-authored with Oxford philosopher Nick Bunnin), “Rationality and Happiness: from the Ancients to the Early Medievals” (co-edited with UB philosopher Jorge Gracia) and “Uses and Abuses of the Classics: Western Interpretation of Greek Philosophy” (also co-edited with Gracia).
A native of China, Yu was considered a prodigy. He was admitted to Shandong University, one of the best universities in China, at age 15 to study philosophy. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he pursued his master’s degree at Renmin University in Beijing and received a doctorate from the University of Guelph in Canada.
He joined the UB faculty after serving as a research fellow for three years at the University of Oxford.