With the closing of each academic year, the University of Mississippi holds an annual memorial ceremony, reflecting on and memorializing the lives of students, staff and faculty who have passed. UM conducted this year’s service on May 4 at 4 p.m. in Paris-Yates Chapel, inviting the entire Ole Miss and Oxford community to gather in memory of the deceased.
Though sorrow and grief filled the chapel, family members and loved ones sat alongside one another in a beautiful, synchronous celebration of the lives led by those they have lost.
The ceremony began with a performance by the UM student string quartet, and was followed by welcoming remarks from UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce. He acknowledged the community’s gratitude towards the deceased, the shared grief among one another and the purpose behind this yearly service.
“Our people are what make this university such a special and welcoming place,” Boyce said. When we lose a member of our community, we feel it deeply, we feel it individually and we certainly feel it collectively.”
Boyce expressed the comfort that can be found within the UM community as people come together to mourn and support one another.
“We are known as a culture of caring: it’s ingrained into who we are and into our community,” Boyce said.“It’s how we encourage, uplift and support each other. It’s also a small source of comfort and solace – in our most difficult times.”
Chancellor Boyce also acknowledged the disappearance of Jimmie “Jay” Lee, and he called on the entire Ole Miss family to continue to extend compassion, care, thoughts and prayers to the Lee family and Jay’s loved ones.
The university’s Faculty Senate Chair Dan Durkin, Staff Council President Deetra Wiley and Associated Student Body President Sara Austin Welch respectively read the names of the Ole Miss community members lost within the past year. As each name was called, families moved to the front of the chapel where they laid a flower in honor of their loved one.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Noel Wilkin remarked on the lessons we derive from loss. Moreover, he encouraged affected family members and friends to acknowledge the wondrous gift of existence, and the power of celebration and sorrow in bringing us together.
“As we look forward, let us not forget the influence of those we honor today,” Wilkin said. “Let us use these reflections and this celebration of their lives to motivate us to maximize the time we have with those around us and to maximize our talents to advance the things that we all care deeply about.”
The closing of the ceremony was marked by the tolling of the chapel’s bells – a longstanding tradition utilized to call a community together in thought, reflection and in prayer. The bell was tolled 26 times, marking the 26 lives that the Ole Miss community lost.
Jimmie “Jay” Lee
Andrew “Drew” Mitchell
Alan “Skip” Jones