Nancy Chiao '00
Weep Not for the Memories
Nancy Chiao was just the kind of person you hoped to meet in heading back to school at SOM: a co-conspirator to help manage the work load and to keep things interesting outside of it. She was ready from day one to forge friendships on the spot and to seize free time to hang out and create a shared sense of fun. Before orientation even started she already knew which bars would become our favorites, raised an eyebrow at New Haven’s pizza hyperbole, and organized a group of classmates she had known for all of three days to go watch a professional tennis tournament nearby. An expert, connoisseur, adventurer, and friend of unsurpassable loyalty, Nancy embraced life instinctively, boldly, and with easy enthusiasm.
Whether at SOM, or before or beyond, Nancy was up for any new idea that sounded like fun. She sought out VIP tickets to see Regis and Kathy live, road-tripped up the East Coast, and tried snowboarding (looking better in the sport’s grunge fashion than any of the teenagers around her). She traded discs of indie music and films with friends across Manhattan, in packages passed through doormen when there wasn’t time to meet in person. And she savored food with a remarkable appetite, from diners to dim sum, Outback to the latest celebrity chef restaurant. Once, after polishing her way through a dozen stalls of fried dough and souvlaki along a Second Avenue street fair, she left her companion resting on the curb, exhausted, while taking off to find that classic New York sausage and pepper sandwich she felt would crown the afternoon.
Nancy was up on everything: the best restaurants, wines, and watering holes; hippest music, plays, and actors; hottest stocks; and, of course, the latest technology and gadgets. She loved Rosie, Lost, Netflix, and Tivo, and she took great pleasure in sharing her discoveries with those of us hopelessly and perpetually behind or oblivious to whatever trend she seemed directly tied into. She was modest about her abilities, too. At SOM, for example, it could take several studygroup sessions to see past her low-key nature, and realize that she had a real intuition about the material and was happily enjoying the time together while waiting for us to catch up.
Nancy’s curiosity and perceptiveness about the world around her shone best in her sense of humor. She held very little sacred, rarely missing an irony that deserved a dry comment. And she laughed easily (and rather distinctively) when poking fun at herself or others. This was true through her illness as well. Playing cards during a doctor’s appointment, with a friend who had accompanied her, she responded to each unfavorable turn in the game by proclaiming to everyone within earshot: “She's cheating! Can you believe my friend here is taking advantage of a sick person by cheating at cards?!" And she was delighted to learn that she’d gotten her wig at the same place as Samantha from Sex and the City: “Got to get my kicks somewhere,” she cracked.
Along every stop of her journey, Nancy’s circle of friends expanded – to owners of a neighborhood restaurant, colleagues, and friends of friends, who quickly became her own. From Dallas to Denmark, New York to New Zealand, London to San Francisco, DC to Taiwan, we feel tremendous sadness at losing Nancy at such a young age. As Nancy, herself, observed back in January, “I guess I just like to be the young one.” In death as in life, our remarkable Nancy Chiao has brought us closer to each other, united in a profound gratitude for the gift of her friendship and in awe at the strength of her spirit. Donations in honor of Nancy's memory can be made to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
This tribute reflects loving memories of Nancy shared by many SOMers with Craig Stuart and KK Ottesen.
August 19, 1974 – May 13, 2005