Gorsline Runciman Funeral Homes

1730 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI


Tien Yien Li

June 28, 1945June 25, 2020
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Dr. Tien-Yien Li passed away peacefully on June 25, 2020, at the age of 75. Li, of Hunan ancestry, was born in June 1945 in Sa County in the Fujian Province of China. He earned his B.S. in Mathematics at the Taiwan National Tsinghua University in 1968. He came to the United States to pursue his love of Mathematics at the University of Maryland at College Park. He received his doctorate in 1974 under the guidance of Dr. James Yorke. Li was previously married to Jacqueline Chen and they had one son together, Edward Li. Jackie and Li remained close friends after their divorce and Li did not remarry. He is survived by Jackie (The Villages, FL), Edward and his wife Juanita (Highland, MD), his two grandchildren Owen and Julia, his two brothers Jian-Chen (Taipei) and Ling-Fong (Sacramento, CA) and his two sisters Mei-Feng (Taipei) and Mei-Fong (Taipei). Li received numerous honors and awards during his academic career. They include the highly prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1995, Michigan State University’s Distinguished Faculty Award as well as Frame Teaching Award in 1996, Michigan State University’s Distinguished Professor Award in 1998, College of Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award of National Tsinghua University in Taiwan in 2002, Michigan State University College of Natural Science’s Outstanding Academic Advisor Award in 2006, and National Tsinghua University’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 2012. Li retired as a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 2018 after 42 years at the University. Despite his numerous ailments, Li had been a trailblazer in several important fields of Applied Mathematics and Computational Mathematics. One of his many monumental accomplishments includes his paper with Yorke, “Period three implies chaos.” This paper has been cited more than 4800 times according to Google Scholar. It is the first to formally encapsulate the concept of chaos in the field of mathematics, and was credited by Professor Freeman Dyson (IAS) as “one of the immortal gems in the literature of mathematics” in the 2008 Einstein Lecture article “Birds and Frogs.” His proof of Ulam’s conjecture is another pioneering work in the computation of invariant measures of chaotic dynamical systems, which laid a foundation to the area of computational ergodic theory. His idea and numerical method with Kellogg and Yorke in computing Brouwer’s fixed point opened a new era for the research in modern homotopy continuation methods. Li’s extensive and deep research with his collaborators as well as his students on the algebraic eigenvalue problem and multivariate polynomial systems has earned him the honor of being one of the world’s leaders in the field. Li supervised twenty-six Ph.D. dissertations in the general areas of Dynamical Systems and Numerical Analysis throughout his career. The challenges that he posed for students, his ideas and approaches to Mathematics research, as well as his courage and spirit of overcoming obstacles have and will continue to have profound impact on his students and colleagues. Private family services will be held. Friends, family, and colleagues are invited to view the service on the funeral home Facebook page beginning Thursday, July 2 at 2pm, at https://www.facebook.com/Gorsline-Runciman-Funeral-Homes-163145830381110/ In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the National Kidney Foundation, Finance Department, 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016. Online condolences may be expressed at www.greastlansing.com


  • National Kidney Foundation


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Tien Yien Li

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Samuel Zhong-En Lin

July 3, 2020

I first saw Professor Li in a talk at National Chiao Tung University. Later, I was very fortunate to able to know Professor Li as a Ph.D. student at MSU.

Although I did not work with Professor Li, he gave me many invaluable advices, especially in the beginning of my graduate study. I am also greatly indebted to him for his hospitality; Professor Li invited me to his house parties during many holidays, including my first moon festival in the United States. I will not be where I am today without Professor Li.

Rachael Schmedlen

July 2, 2020

It was a very warm, heartfelt, and touching service. I remember "Teddy's dad" making soup with fish balls and napa cabbage during one of my visits. That soup was so delicious that I've thought about it several times since then. My condolences to Teddy, Juanita, and Jackie. May God grant you peace and comfort during this time. I will pray for the eternal salvation of Tien Yien's soul.

Gang Bao

July 2, 2020

Professor Li was a long time family friend. To this day, it is still a shock how he would leave us so quickly. I first read the legendary Li-Yorke theorem when I was in college. I really got to know him was after I moved to MSU in 1999. Little did I know he was also a close friend of my thesis advisor, Bill Symes. Since then, despite our age difference, we became close friends. I always consider him as a mentor and learned so much from him. There were so many fun memories and dinner stories with him, which seemed to happen yesterday.

I could only wish TY will be in haven without pain and with his unique smile. TY, rest in peace, I will always miss you!

Ignacio Uriarte-Tuero

July 2, 2020

I had learnt about the theorem period three implies chaos as an undergraduate student in Spain. I never thought I would meet one of the authors, which I did as a colleague at MSU.

I was always impressed by his unpretentious and cheerful demeanor. He used to joke with me when we came across each other in the corridors by calling me "big fish". At some point, I told him he is the big fish, he proved great theorems, at which he replied he was just a "small fish".

Upon learning more about his personal life these sad days, I am even more impressed by his personality, specially his determination to keep going and never give in to sickness.

My prayers are with him and his family. I will always remember his mentorship, example, caring personality, and sense of humor.


July 2, 2020




國立清華大學校長 賀陳弘
      數學系主任 潘戌衍 敬悼

Qingchuan Yao

July 2, 2020


Jiu Ding

July 1, 2020


1985年6月,我有幸在中山大学首次见到你,到你永远离开我们的2020年6月,整整35年。我从你那里不仅学习了怎样做数学,也学习了怎样做父亲。从今天起我开始阅读1985年及之后的日记和你从那年起给我的每封来信。我在重温我们之间师生缘分的历史,这对我弥足珍贵。谢谢你影响了我的一生!学生 丁玖

Patty Kuo

July 1, 2020

Uncle TY was always "Teddy's father" to me while I was growing up, but TY's impact on me has become more pronounced after I had started my PhD studies. I remember visiting his house prior to my first year and he asked me why I was pursuing a PhD- I told him I wanted to be a professor and do research and then shared with me that he was the first to use chaos theory in math. Being a psychology major, I did not know what that meant but I promptly searched for TY on google scholar. Indeed, Uncle TY clearly made a huge impact on his field but over the years, I've come to deeply admire his relationships with his former students. There is a level of fondness there that is only rivaled by family bonds - as evidenced by former students flying in from all over the world to celebrate his retirement/birthday - and one of his former students flying out from CA - during this pandemic - to say goodbye. During our last conversation, I shared with Uncle TY that I aspire to have a legacy like his - to have great impact on the field and on my students' lives. Reading these memories affirms just how truly incredible TY was. I was grateful that he shared these last words with me: Find your life's purpose, work hard, love someone, and have fun.

Lu Shan

July 1, 2020

We were fortunate to have met Dr. Li several times when he came over to visit his son's family in Maryland. His gentle and loving nature as a father and grandfather was evident and warmly felt. As close friends with Edward and Juanita and their children, we have felt interconnected with Dr. Li, through the immense love and admiration his family had for him. We offer our deepest condolences to Dr. Li's family. May you be comforted by his loving memories, his brilliant and humble examples, and a life with far-reaching impact for so many. May the peace of God be with you in immeasurable ways in the days ahead.

Lu, Daniel, Rachel and Ruthie

Joy Gao

July 1, 2020

Professor Li has influenced and blessed my family in so many ways. I am so grateful for everything that he had done for us. I hope that my family's and my prayers have blessed him and that he is now in a better place.