Memorial tree and plaque dedication ceremony held in honor of Dr. Ming Li

Contact: Chris Hybels

Dr. Ming Li.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—On March 1, a memorial tree dedication ceremony was held to honor Dr. Ming Li, the late dean of the College of Education and Human Development. Li was a father, husband and a tireless supporter of the college's students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners.

"Dr. Li's legacy extends far beyond a compilation of impressive achievements or a string of accolades. It resides in his unwavering commitment to uplifting individuals and enriching lives through his stewardship of our world-class College of Education and Human Development," says WMU President Edward Montgomery. "His dedication to enhancing educational opportunities for both college students and K-12 pupils underscores his profound impact on generations to come."

Family, students, faculty, staff and friends gathered around the Oregon Trail Maple tree planted outside of Sangren Hall and were invited to share memories and reflections of Li. 

“He was always energetic, enthusiastic and could talk about education forever," says Lynn Chen-Zhang, president of the WMU Foundation Board of Directors and University trustee. "He loved the college, he loved the University and our students. I think we all drew to Ming because he just had this positive energy and when you talked with him you couldn't help but be impacted by this positivity and feeling energized."

Plaque underneath the memorial tree.

Li's family unveiled the plaque, reading 'Dr. Ming Li; Dean Emeritus of the College of Education & Human Development; A cherished teacher, father, husband, friend and colleague; Forever in our hearts." The bronze plaque is underneath the tree.

"The Oregon Trail Maple stands in front of the building Ming took so much pride in. This particular tree holds special significance because it's native to Kansas. And as many of you know, Ming earned his Ph.D. in the same state," said Dr. Ying Zeng, director of Asian Initiatives with Western’s Haenicke Institute for Global Education. "The Oregon Trail Maple is known for its resilience and its leaves transform red in the fall. So we truly believe it is the perfect choice to commemorate our beloved colleague."  

The ceremony was organized by the Office of the President, the Timothy Light Center for Chinese Studies and University Advancement.  


Dr. Ming Li was the dean of the College of Education and Human Development for nine years (2013-2022). Under Li’s leadership, the college acquired more than $52 million in external funding, significantly contributed to the enrollment of WMU, developed the college’s first ever strategic plan, strengthened the college’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, expanded international student enrollment, buoyed the reputation of the college and implemented several innovative programs.

“Dean Ming Li was a transformative leader of the College of Education and Human Development at WMU. Under his leadership, the college was consistently ranked among the nation’s best schools, generated more external grant support than all but a handful of schools in the country and produced some of the finest most diverse teachers, educational leaders and human development professionals in the state. His legacy won’t be measured, however, by rankings, dollars or awards but rather by how he changed lives both at WMU and in our community. His generosity of spirit, compassion and commitment to his colleagues and our youth set him apart,” says Montgomery.

Due in large part to Li's efforts, CEHD has substantially improved the quality of its teacher preparation programs, which have been consistently rated “Satisfactory” by the Michigan Department of Education during the past nine years. The college has been repeatedly ranked as one of the top 100 public graduate schools of education in the country and the third in the state of Michigan. Working with other colleges at WMU, the College of Education and Human Development established the Educator Preparation Governing Council (EPGC) at WMU, which is an overarching policy-making and review body with oversight of the establishment or revision of educator preparation programs, the assessment of program outcomes and the alignment of programs with state and national standards for educators.


Prior to becoming dean of the College of Education and Human Development in 2013, Li served as interim executive director of the Center for International Studies at Ohio University, serving as that university’s senior international officer. He also filled a wide range of other administrative posts at the university. He was the inaugural chair of the Department of Sports Administration in the College of Business for two years, acting associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Health and Human Services for a year, director of the School of Recreation and Sport Sciences for eight years, from 2002 to 2010, and director of the master’s program in athletic administration in the School of Recreation and Sport Sciences from 2003 to 2010. In addition to his Ohio University posts, Li also taught at Georgia Southern University for 11 years and was coordinator of that university’s sport management program.

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