The UCA community came together with friends and family last week to remember the life of a fellow student and “Hughesie.”
Freshman Jaykwantay “JJ” Girley, 18 of Greenbrier, was found dead at about 8 a.m. Oct. 2 in a Hughes Hall residential restroom. Born on March 4, 1995, he was a Hughes Hall resident and full-time student who enrolled in fall 2013.
President Tom Courtway said the university mourns for Jaykwantay’s family.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to the family,” Courtway said. “We need to remember them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Faulkner County Coroner Patrick Moore said Oct. 4 that an autopsy report confirmed Jaykwantay died from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.
Moore said Jaykwantay’s death did not result from trauma and that his medical history showed no indication to cause his death.
Jaykwantay’s mother Hope Girley, sister and aunt attended a candlelight vigil Oct. 3 at the amphitheater in Jaykwantay’s memory. Rush Campus Ministries and the Interdenominational Christian Council hosted the event.
Associate Director of Community and Diversity Kaylon Bradford opened the vigil by expressing gratitude to the Girley family for sharing Jaykwantay with the Bear family.
“JJ loved life,” Hope said after the vigil ended. She said Jaykwantay was a friendly man who was gracious to everyone he met.
Hope said her son loved to play intramural flag football with fellow “Hughesies.”
Kameron Lovelace, Hughes Hall resident and Rush Campus Ministries president, said he felt it was important to plan the candlelight vigil on campus to honor Jaykwantay.
“I felt a burning in my heart that something had to be done,” he said.
Pastors Cornell Maltbia of True Holiness Saints Center and Mark Dance of Second Baptist Church of Conway spoke to the approximately 200 members of the UCA community, friends and family in attendance.
The Judah Chorale Collegiate Choir sang at the vigil. Toward the end of the event, the crowd began singing “Amazing Grace.”
Brian James, Hughes Hall resident master, said “Hughesies” instantly looked for ways to help Jaykwantay’s family after learning about his death.
“As soon as we figured out that we’d lost one of our own, students immediately and decided, ‘What can we do to help?,’” he said.
James said he’s been overwhelmed by the support from the community and that a pancake supper was organized in only a day.
Aramark hosted the pancake supper in memory of Jaykwantay from 4-8 p.m. Oct. 4 in Christian Cafeteria. Donations were $5 and all proceeds went to Jaykwantay’s family to pay for funeral arrangements.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of tickets bought and just cash donations, an out pouring of love and goodwill, not just for UCA students but the whole community – the faculty and staff here,” James said.
Learning Communities Director Jayme Millsap Stone said the supper raised at least $2,000 for the Girley family. Aramark’s extended hours meant a lot to the family, allowing Hope to draw strength from the community, she said.
Hope greeted each guest as they walked into Christian Cafeteria, offering hugs and sharing stories about Jaykwantay.
Provost Steve Runge said Aramark was gracious in providing financial donations, food and workers for the pancake supper.
“I think this [supper]is a testament to how the people at UCA pull together when we have a tragedy,” he said. “One of the things that really makes us a special place is that people pull together to support each other so that others are taken care of.”
As a member of the Hughes Hall community, James said some people knew Jaykwantay well and others were just beginning to know him.
“I think all in all, we’ve bonded as we grieve together,” he said. “It’s just a very tragic time, but we’ve been able to come together as a family.”
Hughes Hall Resident Coordinator Tony King said giving and supporting is something that comes naturally for “Hughesies.”
“[JJ’s death] was a shock, of course,” he said. “There was pain. There was hurt. There was all those things, but in the midst of that we stayed together.”
“Hughesies” stayed later at night in the residence hall lobby following Jaykwantay’s death. Jones said people who usually stay until 2 a.m. stayed until 6 a.m. to console each other as a family.
King said people knew when Jaykwantay was in the room through his vibrant spirit.
“[JJ] was always on the go and always running and moving around,” he said.
King said one of the most emotional moments for King was when everything started coming together for the supper.
“It was more than what I could imagine,” he said. “The support from everyone has been amazing. Me, my staff, the Hughesies and everybody, we so appreciate everything that has been done.”
Looking ahead, King said Hughes Hall will continue to remember Jaykwantay’s presence as a person who did incredible things as a student and friend at UCA.
Student Health Clinic counselors are available for students, faculty and staff in need of counseling.
Those who were unable to give at campus events last week can donate to the UCA Residential Colleges JJ Girley Fund.