As a colleague, Ye was always incredibly kind and generous. She was one of the leading scholars in her field. She was always respectful of everyone and added so much positivity to the quality of life in our department, and to neighbors in our building. Her children, Amy and Stone, are in our thoughts.
I can truly say that my doctoral advisor, Ye (Angel) Wang single handedly shaped me and my thinking as I learned the process and product of research. Undoubtedly, she was tough, ensuring that her advisees were completely prepared to defend with ease. It is thanks to Angel that I defended, published and presented within months of each other. Dr. Wang's students are actively researching, teaching in Higher Ed and leading schools and programs for the Deaf. This is part of her legacy.
She was a very quiet, private and unassuming person — but she was also a powerhouse who was so prolific in her writing, diligent in her research and teaching, and devoted to the work. She also really wanted people to succeed. I had been a doctoral student at TC for a very long time, because after I began, I had a child, and I was also working full-time in the department, particularly during the transition between directors. I thought I would more or less continue on that path, but when Angel arrived she said, No, no — you’re going to finish. I was done in a year, and then she got me funded as a Lecturer in the department.
She was a voracious reader and learner — she had the kind of curiosity that all scholars should have. And she loved Teachers College. She saw the enormous potential of TC as a changemaker, and was so proud to be part of this community.
Angel always had this laugh in her voice — this cheer. We’re next-door neighbors — Amy has walked our dog when we have been away, tutored my daughter, and helped out in the work my lab does with children with cerebral palsy. I remember the night they all came to TC from Missouri so that the kids, Amy and Stone, could take a public school entrance exam. Their flight had been delayed, it was the middle of the night, and they were locked out of the building for a long time. We laughed later about how I eventually heard them, came down in my bathrobe, and let them in. The next early morning, the kids got up and took the entrance exam and did great.
I had known Ye Wang for a little more than 20 years, starting from her tenure as a graduate student at Ohio State to her meteoric rise to full professorship at Columbia University/Teachers College. Similar to my other international doctoral students, Ye decided to adopt an “Americanized” nomenclature to, apparently, make it easier for others to remember her name. The selection was “Angel”. After interacting with Ye for a few years at OSU, I finally told her that she was definitely an angel of the highest order. However, I continued to call her by her real name. Besides, I could always make her laugh when I got her attention by yelling out: “Hear Ye! Hear Ye! I want to talk to you!” Over the years, Ye and I had several deep conversations, typically at the few conferences we attended. Ye knew that I was passionate about discussing those profound philosophical questions: “What is the meaning of life? Why is there something rather than nothing?” I told Ye that there are two broad perspectives about how the universe came into being: A supernatural entity created it or the universe begat itself. I asked Ye about her view. I still smile whenever I recall her response: “Don’t Ask, don’t tell.”
I can’t think of a nicer departmental colleague. She supported my transition to working motherhood. We lived in the same building and worked just down the hall from one another – she was part of my day to day. She was always so sweet to my son, who is five – she would see him playing on the stoop of our apartment building and when he’d come to campus and visit my office. I always think that’s a good indication of character – how people respond to kids. And that was consistent with her work, which was about advocating for children. There was just this fundamental kindness to it.
Dr. Wang was a dream PhD mentor. She offered guidance and independence in equal measure. Dr. Wang was a fixture at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and American College Educators of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACE-DHH) conferences and published frequently in the American Annals of the Deaf. Despite her many accomplishments, she was allergic to self-promotion and cared much more about her students' successes than her own. She must have been so incredibly brave to leave her home country and pursue degrees in a new country and an unfamiliar language. She may not have looked it, but she was a bold adventurer and a trailblazer. Her bicultural perspective added so much to our classes, and I always loved when she shared tidbits about her childhood in China with us. She loved her children, Amy and Stone, dearly, and was committed to their education and growth. Dr. Wang did not have an easy life, but she turned her experiences into the fuel that drove her commitment to improving educational outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. She had a quiet strength, a steady determination, and a razor-sharp mind. Dr. Wang's memory will be a blessing and inspiration to all who knew her. Her legacy will echo for generations through the research, service, and teaching of the many students fortunate enough to call her their mentor.
Professor Wang highly valued deaf people, their perspectives, and their capacity for achievement. She was an advocate for universal design for learning and inclusion for all, which included inclusion in the highest levels of academic society. Every Ph.D. cohort she led to the doctoral degree; she ensured that a significant number were deaf or hard of hearing, and that both deaf and hearing students received all the necessary support to complete their studies and contribute high quality research.
My goal is to open a center for children with special needs in China. When I was completing my dissertation, I decided that afterward I would take a break from academic studies and work in the industry for a while, as a way of learning other skills I would need to start the center. I was worried that Professor Wang might disapprove, but she said, “The meaning of education is to find yourself — and if this will help you do that, then I support you, 100 percent.”
Dr. Ye (Angel) Wang and I met in the Fall of 2004 when she was a doctoral student, and I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University. We immediately bonded over a shared passion for improving the reading outcomes of deaf learners. Collectively, we conducted some of the first studies of using the multisensory tool, See-the-Sound Visual Phonics, to support implementing phonologically based reading instruction with this population of students. This work represented an innovative approach to teaching reading to deaf students, challenged previous assumptions about the nature of skill development and instruction, and signified an area of pioneering research in deaf education. Angel’s contributions to these and other areas of research will leave a lasting impact on the field and her legacy will live on through the students and colleagues who were fortunate to work with her.