Frances Sheng, adjunct associate professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, passed away on Jan. 3 at the age of 95.
Sheng completed her undergraduate degree at Fu Jen Catholic University in Beijing, and her MA at the University of Connecticut. In 1972 she arrived at Wesleyan, where she founded Wesleyan’s Chinese language program and inspired generations of students by teaching Chinese faithfully until her retirement in 1994. During her 22 years at Wesleyan, Sheng was involved in the establishment of the East Asian Studies program as well as study abroad in China, and she founded the Frances M. Sheng Prize, which is still awarded today for excellence in Chinese language and excellence in Japanese language.
“Frances’ students loved and admired her for being a demanding but caring teacher,” said longtime colleague and John E. Andrus Professor of History William Johnston. “Frances created a foundation for our program in Chinese language instruction, whose continued success is itself a tribute to her earlier efforts. CEAS and Wesleyan owe a debt of gratitude to Frances.”
Ellen Widmer, professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, remembers Sheng as being “full of dignity but also humor. She cared about people’s qualities as a person.” Widmer also noted that although Sheng ran a “tight ship,” her classes were also always full of laughter.
“How well I remember Frances’ kindness in my first years at Wesleyan,” said Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, Vera Schwarcz. “Her great sense of humor. How she pushed her students to do their best. May her soul rest in peace.”
Sheng is survived by her sister, Rita Mao Hechler; her brother, Mao Yuan; her daughter, Diane Sheng; her niece, Lucille Sheng-French; and four grandchildren: Stacy Tarver Patterson, Andrew Herzer, Aaron Tarver, and Alexandra Herzer. If desired and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the CAF/Suzanne Sheng Fund, a scholarship fund for Connecticut architectural students, c/o Connecticut Architecture Foundation, AIA Connecticut, 370 James St, Suite 402, New Haven, CT 06513.