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Julia Ye Shen (沈晔)

Julia Ye Shen (沈晔) passed away on March 25, 2022 at the age of 45 after a valiant struggle with a metastatic appendix cancer.  Born in Shanghai, China in 1976, Julia emigrated to Canada in 2002 and settled in Austin, Texas in 2006.  After working side by side with her husband to help build his investment management business, Julia sought her own professional path.  Her love of fashion led her to work at Nordstrom, where she helped women express themselves and find their personal style.  She later embarked on an educational journey that took her to Austin Community College.  Paralegal courses sparked an interest that led her to gain admission to several law schools, but she decided against attending to pursue more general education.  The modest beginnings of an ACC calculus class reignited a long-forgotten love of math from her childhood school days.  Julia went on to complete an Associate of Science degree in math from ACC, the UTeach Natural Sciences curriculum at The University of Texas at Austin, a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with Highest Honors from UT Austin, where she was also admitted to Phi Beta Kappa, and coursework towards a Master of Science in Data Science at UT Austin.  Julia was working both as a high school math teacher at KIPP Austin Brave High School and as an adjunct math professor at ACC, and continuing her graduate coursework, when her cancer was diagnosed.  She loved her students, teachers and classmates; she loved explaining mathematical concepts to curious minds; and she loved opening her own mind to better understand mathematical and statistical concepts.

Julia put her heart into everything she did, whether it was cooking for family or friends on special occasions such as Chinese New Year; world travel; gardening, painting, music; fashion; swimming; or pursuing any of her many other interests.  Julia said that life is a concert, and at the end of a concert we don’t cry – we applaud a beautiful performance.  Julia’s concert was far shorter than any of us would have liked, but it was a masterpiece.

Julia experienced her greatest joy in the midst of her greatest tragedy with the arrival of daughter Sarah in December 2021.  As many smiles and good times Julia shared with those who knew and loved her, nothing compared to the precious moments Julia was able to spend with her baby girl.

Julia is survived by her husband, Steven Ayers; her daughter, Sarah Ayers; and her parents, Qishun Shen and Zhijie Shen of Shanghai, China.

We will celebrate Julia’s life on Monday, April 25 at 6:00pm at the Paseo Entrance of Austin Community College Highland Campus, 6101 Highland Campus Drive, Austin TX  78752.

In honor and memory of Julia, we have established the Julia Ye Shen Endowment Mathematics Scholarship, so others may have the opportunity to turn modest beginnings into greatness. In lieu of sending flowers, we ask that you make a donation to her scholarship fund at  On the second page of the donate button under: How would you like to use your donation? In the left menu questions, go to the dropdown menu and scroll down to choose the option: Julia Ye Shen Endowed Mathematics Scholarship.

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