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Shang-Mei Hillhouse

Obituary for Shang-Mei Hillhouse

August 5, 1970 - May 1, 2017
Austin, Texas | Age 46

Amazing woman, Finance Ph.D., Professor, Teacher, loving wife, and soul-mate, Shang-Mei Hillhouse, née Lee


Amazing woman, Finance Ph.D., Professor, Teacher, loving wife, and soul-mate, Shang-Mei Hillhouse, née Lee, died on May 1, 2017 in Austin, Texas after a courageous battle with cancer.

Born on August 5, 1970 in the Year of the Dog to I-Min Lee and Ai-Chin Liu in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Shang-Mei, which means "elegant beauty" in Chinese, and which she certainly was, had a life that spanned the globe and so many people's hearts. Her radiant smile greeted all and welcomed them into her heart. She always saw the best in others and tried mightily to inspire others to do the same.

Her birth brought immense joy to her parents I-Min and Ai-Chin. She was the apple of her father's eye. Thanks to her rule and dictatorship, her younger brothers Chang Hau and Chang Tai grew up to be resilient and adaptable men. Growing up, she loved socializing, reading comics, bossing her brothers around and loved their family weekend getaways. Shang Mei was smart and a star pupil despite her liking to occasionally skip class to watch her favorite Taiwanese TV series. She had many interests and was a continuous learner. She was never afraid of challenges or change. She was the first to study abroad, she was the first to get her PhD, and was a fantastic role model for her brothers. The family couldn't wish for a better daughter, sister and aunt.

22 years ago, Shang-Mei immigrated to the United States for graduate school. The Master of Science in Finance at George Washington University was a small program with only about 10-15 full time students, mostly international, and only 4 females. As Eva Csake and Adriana Avalos, two friends she met there tell it, "We all took the same classes, at the same time, and we worked on our assignments in a shared computer lab. Needless to say we quickly got to know each other pretty well. But Shang-Mei was an exception. We did not hear her speak much in the first few weeks, at least not in English. She spent most of her time with other Chinese-speaking students, always polite but very reserved with others. A few weeks into the program there was a potluck party in Eva's apartment to which all the full time students were invited. We had music, dancing, good food and the seeds of a great community. Shang-Mei did not only show up but was so excited! It was her first time going to a party in the US, (the first taste of wine) and the first exposure to merengue!

"That day was the beginning of a new era in the program but, as it also turns out, in our lives. The four girls from the program, from four different continents, became the best of friends. We spent all of our time together in and out of school, exploring the diverse culture of DC and traveling to places well beyond together. Our days in school became more enjoyable as we felt the support from our growing true friendship, a kind smile or a spontaneous laugh from Shang-Mei would make our study days easier to get through. As we got to know each other, we learned from Shang-Mei to appreciate the beauty in life that we sometimes overlook, a starry night will never be the same as that one night on a trip to Mexico when we three friends watched the sky together after Shang-Mei made us appreciate the magnificent beauty we had in front of us.

"Shang-Mei was a much better student than the rest of us. She diligently prepared for every test and assignment and finished them on time. The rest of us had a somewhat different pattern so she soon had the wisdom not to join us for group projects and just like anyone who knew her would predict, she was not trying to make up diplomatic excuses for why. She could always be bluntly honest and still be loved for it. She played hard with the rest of us but kept true to her personal values and also worked very hard, always being one of the top students. The three of us stay stayed in DC after graduation. Shang-Mei went on to do a PhD in finance, a testament to her amazing intellect and hard work, and we got jobs. Our friendship continued deepening over the years being there for each other on good days and bad, at times of heartaches as well as celebrations. Many people have come and gone over the years, but the three of us always remained, Shang-Mei was the sister we never had."

After graduating from George Washington University, Shang-Mei began a career as a finance professor at Hood College, a private college in Frederick, Maryland. At first, Shang-Mei was nervous teaching because she felt her English to be lacking. Over time however, like all problems she had previously encountered, Shang-Mei became the professor she wanted to be and one students enjoyed learning from. During her professorship, she produced several research papers and inspired many students.

In 2003, she met Jim Hillhouse of Austin, Texas. They had a wonderful time getting to know each other by turning the long-distance into an excuse to travel; one thing that Shang-Mei and the man who became her husband loved to do. After four years of dating, Jim finally mustered-up the courage to be happy and asked Shang-Mei to be his wife. Shang-Mei accepted in the summer of 2007, and Shang-Mei made Austin her home, a city that she had come to love. While in Austin, Shang-Mei taught finance for two years at St. Edwards University, created a community of friendship, and welcomed all who met her.

On May 30, 2007 Shang-Mei and Jim Hillhouse were married in a sunset ceremony at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, BVI. She and her husband Jim made Austin their home. Shang-Mei travelled extensively because she loved to experience new places, see nature, and meet new people. Shang-Mei and Jim brought two yellow Labrador Retriever sisters, Samantha and Victoria, into their house in 2007. Her days began early welcoming them each with, "What a beautiful day! God bless us this day.", kissing Jim good morning and ending with Jim kissing her good night while telling her, "I love you". In-between, there was so much love and joy in their house or wherever they were together.

Shang-Mei will be missed so very much by those she touched.

There will be a "Spiritual Celebration" of Shang-Mei Hillhouse on Thursday, May 4th, 11 AM at Chez Z Bistro's Events Area, located at 5406 Balcones Drive.

Shang-Mei Hillhouse didn't have a preferred charity, so we her family hope that those wishing to make a charitable donation in her name do so to the charity of their choice.

As Shang-Mei would always say in closing, "Have a blessed day".

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Shang-Mei Hillhouse didn't have a preferred charity, so we her family hope that those wishing to make a charitable donation in her name do so to the charity of their choice.

Arrangements By

Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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