Roller backpack in tow, Cecilia Lam would tap down the campus halls with her Hello Kitty walking-cane, her sounds alerting classmates and faculty of her presence. Lam, a fearlessly outspoken, hard-working woman, had her life cut short last week, allegedly at the hand of her ex-boyfriend.
“She was the type of person that would defend the defenseless, fight injustice head-on, and give her last dollar to a person less fortunate,” her family wrote of Lam, better known as Ceci, on a memorial-fund page. “Even if that meant she was to go hungry that night.”
After police released the ex-boyfriend from custody for public intoxication, police said he shot Lam Oct. 10 at the 500 block of Natoma Street.
Lam was pronounced dead a few days later at San Francisco General Hospital, according to San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Albie Esparza.
Before her death, Lam was an advocate for the prevention of domestic violence against women, her family wrote. Teachers described her as a passionate student of women’s issues and Asian-American studies, who always sat in the front row of class.
“She was always open to sharing her opinion,” classmate Arielle Santos said, who added that her death upset her given their recent interaction two weeks ago. “Once you met her you couldn’t really forget her.”
Despite struggles with back pain that prompted her to undergo surgery last semester, the 35-year-old Lam is remembered by Asian-American studies professor Isabelle Pelaud as focused on her education.
“Ceci was determined to accomplish the goals she set for herself. Getting her baccalaureate was her top priority,” Asian-American studies professor Lorraine Dong said. “There’s some comfort in me to know that during her last months she was happy that this was one goal she was definitely going to achieve.”
Lam first attended SF State for one year in 1997 before she returned as a junior in Fall 2013, according to Dong, who was also her main advisor.
She expected to reach her longtime goal of graduating from a University in May.
“One thing that stood out for me was how strong she was, how much she really thought about the (class) topics,” Pelaud said. “She wanted to fight for social justice and for the community.”
Daphne Crane, who had Lam in three different classes over the last few semesters, said that Lam liked Sanrio, a popular Japanese company that makes Hello Kitty products, and that she wanted to be a lawyer of the people.
“She wanted to learn about experiences that weren’t necessarily her own,” said Asian-American studies department chair Grace Jeanmee Yoo.
Her family established a GoFundMe page to commemorate her life and to bring awareness to domestic violence. Throughout the last week, the page has raised more than $14,000 for her memorial fund.
The Asian-American studies department will sponsor a teach-in about domestic violence in Lam’s memory Nov. 4 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in BH 226. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.