By Hailey Pruitt, photography by Jeff Montgomery
The date selected for the memorial dedicated in honor of the life of Botham Jean was appropriately chosen — it would have been his 30th birthday. Students, faculty, family and friends gathered Sept. 29 to commemorate this special occasion by sharing memories. The Good News Singers, of which Jean had been a member, began the program in song. Members of the social club Sub T-16 were seated in a special reserved section, all wearing club jerseys in honor of their brother.
The memorial, designed by Mike Steelman of SMC Architects and inaugural director of the Master of Architecture program, stands outside the David B. Burks American Heritage Building and includes a bronze plaque with Jean’s likeness and a short description of his life and legacy. There also are benches on each side inviting anyone passing by to sit for a while and remember his impact. Dr. David Burks says he imagines this becoming a favorite location for “pictures to be taken and memories to be shared.”
“#Be Like Bo,” the popular hashtag on social media, seems appropriate to many who knew him. Todd Gentry, College Church of Christ campus minister, says, “Botham loved Jesus and followed him to the best of his ability.” To follow in his footsteps is to be a disciple of Christ. Gentry described Jean’s passion for any activity he chose to be involved in, saying that it often began hesitantly, but once committed, he was all in. No matter what group or activity he participated in, Gentry said, “he was into people.” Many friends would consult Jean in times of conflict or stress. His common response was to quote James 5:13 — “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise” — and then begin singing. His powerful voice cheered many loved ones.
Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, recalls Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr.’s visit to St. Lucia in 2010 for the annual Caribbean Lectureship. After Ganus shared what the University had to offer, Jean was committed to Har-ding and couldn’t be persuaded to consider any other school. When the Jean family visited campus in April 2011, Botham left his mother sitting at the fountain and talked to everyone he saw as if he already belonged here. Allison Jean says, “when I saw the sparkle and excitement in his eyes, I knew I couldn’t disappoint him.” By the time he graduated in 2016, he had become a Harding ambassador, just like Dr. Ganus.
A surprise addition to the dedication program, the first annual Botham Jean Inspiration Award was presented to his brother, Brandt Jean. This award will be presented as part of the Homecoming celebration each year to a member of the Harding community who has demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity and inspired others to be ambassadors for Christ.
Also seated in the audience were the four recipients of the Botham Jean Business Scholarship awarded by Paul R. Carter College of Business Administration in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers, Jean’s employer. This scholarship is given to members of underrepresented populations pursuing degrees within the College of Business. Trisha Magadu, a junior from Norton, Zimbabwe; Trinity Bolden, a sophomore from Searcy; Rollansky Darote, a junior from North Miami, Florida; and Brittany Tate, a senior from San Diego, are all studying accounting and will continue to receive the scholarship through their graduations.
Botham’s family and friends continue to grieve his tragic death but not as those with no hope. As Dr. Bruce McLarty, fifth president of Harding, and the Good News Singers reminded those gathered for the memorial dedication, Jesus Christ, the living hope, is Botham’s Lord and Savior.
“After his sprint of only 26 years, he finished his race in record time,” said Allison Jean. He leaves behind a legacy of loving Jesus and his people. “#BeLikeBo is more than a hashtag. It’s a challenge to live ambitious lives of empathy, integrity and compassion.”