By Makayla Steede
University of Mississippi Journalism Student
Family, friends, classmates and instructors joined with community members in the Circle at Ole Miss on Wednesday evening for a “Hope for Jay” rally to show support for Jimmie “Jay” Lee, who was reported missing July 8.
The Department of Social Work organized the event with the help of the Associated Student Body and other student organizations to call the community together to talk about Lee and pray for him and his family.
Lee, 20, attended Ole Miss and graduated in May with a degree in social work. He was last seen at about 6 a.m. on July 8, leaving Campus Walk Apartments. Police are investigating and asking for the community’s help in locating the missing student.
Kara Gallagher, Lee’s classmate and fellow social work major, opened the gathering.
“As social workers, we’re not going to stand from the sidelines,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to try and do something about it, so I want to thank all of you so much for coming out. It means a lot to the people who knew Jay. He was such an extroverted and outgoing individual.”
Lolita Gregory, assistant dean of undergraduate recruitment and retention at the School of Applied Sciences, offered support to Lee’s family and friends.
“To the family, the Lee family, words can be difficult to find, but this rally is about hope,” Gregory said. “We know that hope shines a light where there’s darkness.”
Classmate Veronica Keith remains optimistic that Lee will return home safely.
“I had the opportunity to meet Jay during our social work program,” Keith said after an opening prayer. “We finished the program together this spring, and he will be doing the advanced standing master’s program here at the university starting in August, and I know he’s going to be back for that.”
Stickers that read “Hope for Jay Lee” were passed out along with small containers of bubbles.
“We want to blow bubbles as a sign for Jay to see, so he will know his way home,” Gallagher said.
Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charlotte Pegues read a statement written by Lee’s mother, Stephanie Lee. She and Lee’s father Jimmie Lee were at the event but preferred not to speak publicly.
“Jay Lee is a special kind of person,” Pegues read from the statement. “Jay has a deep passion for whatever he’s working on. Just yesterday, my husband and I had to go through some Amazon packages that Jay had previously ordered. We were overwhelmed in seeing how he was ordering baby items out of his own pocket to give out to children in need. That’s the kind of guy he is. It’s our prayer that Jay Lee comes home safe and sound.”
Lee was interning with Child Protective Services and gathering donations for baby formula before he went missing. Precious Thompson, another of Lee’s classmates, was not surprised.
“Jay is an outgoing person,” Thompson said. “He’s proud of who he is. He’s loving. He’s part of social work and when you’re in social work, you love people.”
Thompson also expressed uncertainty over Lee’s disappearance, but she did not despair.
“We’re not here mourning him,” Thompson said. “But we’re here saying come home, Jay. We’re here. We’re waiting.”
Photo gallery by School of Journalism and New Media student Savannah Shook.