Jason Ray, an InterVarsity leader at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, died Monday from injuries received from a Friday traffic accident. While Jason had a number of roles in the chapter, including worship team musician and Bible study leader, he was known more widely to UNC students and North Carolina residents as Ramses the Ram, the UNC mascot.
The accident happened in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as the Tar Heels prepared to play in the NCAA Men’s Basketball East Regional. Jason had gone out to get a bite to eat when he was struck while walking alongside the highway.
Jason was a senior and was preparing for May graduation with a degree in business administration and a minor in religion. He was an Eagle Scout, active in his home church and also the lead singer in a band called Nine P.M. Traffic. “He’s probably accomplished more in his 21 years than I have in my 40,” a member of his home church told one reporter.
The mascot costume barely contained his 6-foot-5 frame and its matching exuberant personality. Brian Humphries, a junior who led a Bible study with Jason last year, remembered his hearty laugh. “It was just like pure joy,” he told the Charlotte Observor. “I think we can fake laughter sometimes. Jason couldn’t.”
UNC cheerleading coach Brown Walters said “Jason gave Rameses an energy that was unique. He embodied all of the qualities you would want in a team member. He was a tremendous ambassador of the University of North Carolina.”
Sports writers Adam Lucas and Steve Politi captured more of Jason’s personality in their accounts. But the best testimony of Jason’s life may have been posted by an anonymous UNC student who wrote a tribute on Bill Simmons’ Page 2 Sports Blog on ESPN.com:
He was the very first person I met at UNC. He was helping freshmen move into the dorms as a part of InterVarsity (a Christian ministry on campus). The elevators were all jammed up, so he helped me cart a refrigerator, futon, and all my other stuff (and girls have a lot of stuff) up NINE floors in the 100-degree heat. And he did it happily. We became friends, and I spent a lot of time around him. He let me wear the ram head one time because I thought it’d be funny (even though I’m sure he wasn’t supposed to). He was such a good person. A true friend. What every Tar Heel should aspire to be.
InterVarsity president Alec Hill is sending message of condolence to Jason’s family. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Jason Kendall Ray Memorial Fund at Concord Christian Church, 3101 Davidson Highway, Concord NC 28027. Plans for an on-campus memorial service will be posted on the InterVarsity chapter website when available. The previously-planned topic for this week’s UNC large group meeting on Thursday evening is “The Resurrection.”
Campus Memorial Service, April 10
2011 follow-up story by The New York Times
Photo courtesy of The Daily Tar Heel