UB art department pays tribute to Solomon Jackson

Jackson, a studio art major and football player, died after medical emergency at practice

When Solomon Jackson introduced himself in his Art in the Everyday class, he said he was “sweet like a Georgia peach,” and smiled, according to Warren Quigley.

The one thing Quigley, an art professor who taught the class, remembers about Jackson was the football player’s bright smile.

On Tuesday, UB’s Department of Art held a memorial in Jackson’s honor, one week after the university announced his death. Jackson, who was a studio art major, died on the night of Feb. 29 after suffering a medical emergency during a team conditioning session on Feb. 22. He was 20 years old.

Those who attended were asked to talk about their memories of Jackson. Attendees also had the chance to write their memories on signs that the art department plans to send to Jackson’s parents in Stone Mountain, Georgia, along with a video of the event.

Lisa Hewitt was Jackson’s academic adviser and said she saw him the day before his medical emergency to discuss his schedule. She described Jackson as “lovely” and “respectful.”

“I used to tell him [he’s] good for my self-esteem because he used to address me as ‘miss.’ When a woman gets to a certain age you go from miss to ma’am overnight and he would always call me miss,” Hewitt said.

Many spoke about Jackson’s drive as a student. Hewitt said he always made sure he was on track to graduate, even with his “extensive” football schedule. She, and others who attended, spoke about how Jackson broke the college athlete stereotype.

“His academics were really his primary concern where there’s this misconception with athletes that it’s their athletic endeavors that are more important than their academics but not with him,” Hewitt said.

Kathy Cheng met Jackson in a class they had together. She said he was a sensitive person and always kind to her. Cheng, a sophomore accounting major, said the class was at night and she was afraid to walk to her car by herself.

“Solomon sensed that and would walk me home so I would feel safe,” Cheng said.

Cheng said they developed a friendship during the class and although they didn’t speak as much after the semester, she still remembers him as a good friend.

Another student who spoke at the event said she was in shock after hearing about his death. She said she’s heard of students dying in the past, but it was heartbreaking to now know one. She told the group Jackson was a “multifaceted character” who wasn’t “just a football player,” or “wasn’t just a student.”

Art professor Joan Linder taught Jackson in her Advanced Figure Drawing class. She said she still has a drawing Jackson did for an assignment.

Linder said she held the picture – which is of Jackson’s roommate playing video games – after she heard he died. She said what a “joy” it was to have an art student who was also a football player.

Hewitt said she is still very broken up about his death, but she knows Jackson is in a better place.

“It’s a great, great loss to all of us,” Hewitt said. “I hope all of his dreams are coming true in heaven.”

Marlee Tuskes is the senior news editor and can be reached at marlee.tuskes@ubspectrum.com. Follow her on Twitter at @marleetuskes5..