Remembering Paul Lee

Members of the SPU community work to remember Paul Lee, victim of 2014 Otto Miller shooting

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

On June 5, 2014 an unspeakable tragedy struck the SPU campus. A 26-year-old gunman opened fire in Otto Miller Hall killing one member of the SPU community and wounding three more.

Freshman Paul Lee lost his life that day in Otto Miller Hall.

“He was the direct symbol of that tragedy of not being able to move ahead,” said Lee’s former University Seminar professor Roger Feldman.

The new installation at the foot of Ashton Hall is a visual reminder of Paul Lee’s life. (Marissa Lordahl)

While SPU has already done several ceremonial services to honor Lee, the administration decided to move ahead with a memorial that would honor his life as well as the tragedy of his death. 

“Over multiple years we did have times to come back together and remember Paul,” said Vice Provost of Student Life Jeff Jordan. “Julia Bennett was one of the students in Dr. Feldman’s class, and she and some other students said that we needed to do something to remember Paul.”

While Jordan helped communicate with the family and organize the construction, the design was created by Bennett, who was one of Lee’s classmates in the now discontinued University Seminar program. Feldman oversaw Bennett in the design process and helped bring it to administration. 

“We initially proposed a stone structure, with a wall and it had openings in it, that would allow for people to see through,” Feldman explained. “The original thought was that the structure would also have an arbor, that would mimic the wall below that’s curved, that arbor then would support this growing clematis representing life.”

A clematis, which is a vine of flowers, has yet to be placed on the top of the monument, but according to both Feldman and Jordan, that aspect of the monument will be added at some point in the future. 

Jordan, who still has the original proposal for the monument, explained that the memorial symbolizes much of Paul’s life and personality.

“The memorial itself, the way it was designed by Julia, was a piece of art that had movement in it because Paul loved to dance,” Jordan explained. “It ends abruptly, and that’s where his death kinda came there… and it points north, and we don’t say this a lot but it points toward where the tragedy happened, but from the perspective of where he lived his life.”

The bench at Paul Lee’s memorial serves as place for students to pause and look over campus. (Marissa Lordahl)

Jordan also explained that Lee’s father wanted there to be a bench aspect added to the piece, so that Lee’s mother could go to the monument and sit as a place to let her think about her son’s life.

Bennett was happy to get the opportunity to honor her friend in such a permanent way.

“Paul was one of my really close friends during school and my senior year I was taking an installation class with Feldman, he was my advisor throughout SPU, and I had the idea of proposing a temporary installation.” Bennett explained. “I had proposed it to him, to see if it could become a permanent thing depending on what the school had in mind for their gift to the Lee family.”

With the help of Feldman the design was approved, something Bennett is thankful for.

“I was really impressed that they even considered it when Roger and I brought it to the school board,” said Bennett. “It just feels so unlikely that a school would actually run with a project proposed by a student.”

SPU hopes to schedule a dedication ceremony for the monument but it has been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, but Jordan, Feldman, and Bennett are all looking forward to climbing the Ashton hill with old friends and colleagues and celebrating Paul one more time.

“I think that has been in the plans from the beginning, that there would be an assembly that would honor Paul, including his parents,” Feldman said.