It is with profound sadness that I write to inform you all of the sudden and tragic death of a member of the Keystone Class of 2018, Johnson Li Yaojia. On June 29th, 2019 Johnson and several friends traveled to Tianjin to support a friend in a polo match. The vehicle that the young adults were traveling in collided with a truck on a major expressway, taking Johnson’s life upon impact.
In the midst of the difficult reality that we now face, let’s try to understand who Johnson was in our community, and how the light that permeated his being illuminated us. Johnson was a young man with a gentle and jovial spirit, who was much more than a mere student while at Keystone. He was a brother, mentor, and close friend to many. According to Johnson’s closest friends, he possessed a remarkable ability to converse with and welcome everyone fully into his life; he believed fiercely in kindness and reciprocity; and his humor, intelligence, strength, and spirit impacted everyone who had the privilege of interacting with him.
Faculty members who knew Johnson paint him as a young man who endeavored every day to make the world a kinder place. Whether it be by inviting expatriate students into daily conversation when he took notice of social exclusion, or simply by greeting every member of the faculty and staff at Keystone with a smile of acknowledgement, Johnson left a significant mark on all. He was both gentle, and a gentleman.
According to one of Johnson’s closest friends, David Ma, one of Johnson’s life’s ambitions above material and professional success was to continue to exude qualities such as kindness, optimism, strength, and honesty in his future roles as a husband, father, and friend. Johnson defined success as “Being able to ignore everything but the voice in your heart.” These are qualities that we all have the capacity to express, and Johnson embodied these traits perfectly, forging and following his own path in life.
Many of us have anecdotes to share about Johnson. Let me end with the words of Greg Barnes, Director of Summer Programs at Keystone Academy. Greg wrote, “Johnson is one of those special people that seemed to always be smiling. He was open and friendly to strangers, and would give everyone the impression that he already knew them well…Johnson indeed made the world a brighter place for everyone that knew him, and the world is a little darker without him in it.”
Johnson’s character touched the lives of many, and his compassion will influence the lives of even more. Johnson may have left the physical world but there's a little of him still in all of us. Please help me to make sure that we will treasure even more the friendships and community that we have here at Keystone, because of him. I made a similar request near the end of the eulogy that I wrote for the occasion of Johnson’s funeral last Saturday.
Head of School