22 Forever: U Campus Community Gathers at Candlelight Vigil to Honor Student-Athlete Aaron Lowe


Jack Gambassi

Two University of Utah students embrace at the candlelight vigil held on the A. Ray Olpin Union lawn on campus in celebration of the life of Aaron Lowe. Sept. 29, 2021 (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jack O'Leary and Kayleigh Silverstein

As the sun set on a brisk Sept. 29 evening, University of Utah student-athletes walked up from President’s Circle, wearing all black to honor U student-athlete, Aaron Lowe, who was shot and killed on Sunday, Sept. 26. 

Lowe, who played defensive back on the U’s football team, changed his number from 2 to 22 to honor his former friend and teammate, Ty Jordan, who was killed in an accidental shooting less than a year ago. 

Lowe also was the first recipient of the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship, created to honor Jordan’s legacy. 

Followed by students, faculty, parents and many other members of the campus community, the student-athletes gathered in front of the podium outside of the A. Ray Olpin Student Union. Others filed in, interspersed with volunteers passing out candles and tissues to attendees before the speeches began at 7:30 p.m.

Dean of Students Jason Ramirez introduced the speeches by acknowledging the emotional trauma felt by those in the audience, noting the presence of members of the counseling center to help people process the weekend’s events. 

A University of Utah student participates in the candlelight vigil held on the A. Ray Olpin Union lawn on campus in celebration of the life of Aaron Lowe. Sept. 29, 2021 (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Jack Gambassi)

The first speaker, Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham, said Lowe overcame a lot of adversity in his life. 

“We should all be grateful for the time we had with him,” he said. “He wasn’t here long. But, I’m personally grateful for the time I had with him. Such a tragic, seemingly senseless loss.”

Following their coach’s words, several of Lowe’s teammates spoke about the love they had for Lowe. 

Ja’Quinden Jackson is a freshman quarterback who transferred to the U this past January from Texas and knew both Lowe and Jordan as teenagers.

“When I got here he was the first person that talked to me and ever since we’ve been close,” Jackson said. “Aaron would light up the room with a big smile on his face … he was more than a teammate and best friend, he was my big brother, the big brother for Ty and me.”

Another teammate and roommate of Lowe’s, freshman cornerback LaCarea Pleasant-Johnson, spoke about how Lowe was selfless and always there for his teammates.

“Coach Whit, I just want to thank you for recruiting A-Lowe, and the reason why I say that is because if you didn’t recruit A-Lowe then I would’ve never known the person he was,” Pleasant-Johnson said. “I want you guys to know Aaron is at peace, he doesn’t feel any more pain.”

Athletics Director Mark Harlan said he spent some time in the past few days with Lowe’s mother, Donna Lowe-Stern. She told Harlan it was a dream come true for Lowe to play football for the U. 

“We also spoke in great detail about [how] his last day on earth was playing a football game in the place that he loved with his teammates who he loved greatly on national TV,” Harlan said. “That was his dream.”

The next speaker was ASUU President Jessica Wojciechowski, who said while she did not know Lowe personally, he was clearly an integral part of the campus community. 

“From the stories I’ve heard this week about Aaron, I can see that he held immense love and care for his teammates and his community,” Wojciechowski said. “The University of Utah community will never forget Aaron and the long-lasting impact he had on our campus.”

Wojciechowski went on to say safety is a basic human right, and Aaron’s murder is an example of the epidemic of gun violence against historically excluded communities. 

“Aaron Lowe, a young Black man who came to Utah with the determination to fulfill his dreams and goals, yet the privilege of safety that many of us take for granted, was taken from him,” she said. 

University of Utah student-athletes participate in the candlelight vigil held on the A. Ray Olpin Union lawn on campus in celebration of the life of Aaron Lowe. Sept. 29, 2021 (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Jack Gambassi)

Vice President of Student Affairs Lori McDonald said there is no one right way to grieve. 

“Campus services, including mental health counseling, are available, and we’re here to serve you, whether it’s now, weeks from now or into the future, please don’t hesitate to ask for assistance,” McDonald said. 

Finally, speeches closed out with U President Taylor Randall echoing Wojciechowski’s statements about safety. He said the U community needs to work with the greater Salt Lake community to address the root causes of violence.

Randall said Lowe was a light to the community. To represent this light, the block U on the hill was lit in Lowe’s honor from 7-9 p.m.

“I think in that light, there is a promise,” he said. “It’s a promise that if we take his bright light and clutch it close to our souls and let it glow within us, that we can be better.”

He closed his speech with words from Maya Angelou’s poem “When Great Trees Fall,” adding his own spin to include Lowe’s legacy. 

“As Maya Angelou said, ‘they existed,’” Randall said. “He existed. We can be and be better. 22% better. For Aaron.”


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