A Columbia student, majoring in photography, was found dead on March 2 in the Little Calumet River at 126th Street and Stony Island Avenue. The body was identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office as 20-year-old Jay Polhill, of Lena, Ill.
Polhill was last seen outside of his University Center dormitory, 525 S. State St., on Feb. 28. The cause of death has not yet been released, according to The Chicago Police Department’s Office of News Affairs.
A statement was released March 4 by Columbia President, Warrick L. Carter, in which he formally announced the death and expressed sincere regrets on behalf of the college.
“Regrettably, the news has reported that the body of our missing student, Jay Polhill, a photography major, has been found,” the statement read.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss, and our thoughts and prayers as a community are with Jay’s family and friends. Jay was a hard-working student and his instructors and fellow students enjoyed having him in class. He will be greatly missed by the faculty, staff and students whose lives he touched. As we focus on our students who have just lost a friend, we will continue to work with the Chicago Police Department and let them speak, as appropriate, to the investigation into Jay’s death. Our entire community is saddened and affected by his passing. Let’s pull together as the Columbia College Chicago community and support his family and all others who need support because of this shocking loss.”
Polhill is remembered by his friends as a unique, fun-loving and creative individual.
Childhood friend Andrew Frits, sophomore biology student at Rock Valley College, said Polhill was one of the funniest guys in his group of friends.
“He had such a sharp comedic wit,” Frits said. “He would just say the wittiest stuff all the time. He could make anyone laugh; he was really the comedic relief in the group. If you ever needed to laugh or if anything got real serious, he was there to put in his two cents, and it was always hilarious.”
Frits remembered a conversation that he had with Polhill about his studies at Columbia.
“I asked him how school was,” Frits said. “I was like, ‘How’s your major?’ and he said, ‘Man, seriously, I love it. This is my dream and my parents are backing me through it. They are all behind my academic goals’ and I just thought that was great. It was the most serious I’ve ever seen Jay. Photography was his passion.”
Zanna Pearman, sophomore film student at Columbia, remembers Polhill as having an magnetic personality.
“He was just really friendly,” Pearman said. “Everyone that met him definitely liked him right away. A lot of people have come up to me and have been like, ‘Oh yeah, I met him and he was really awesome,’ and they had only met him once, but he had made an impact on them.”
Pearman, who met Polhill while living in the University Center last year, said her friends and herself are supporting each other by remembering his magnetic personality.
“He was always joking around and always trying to lighten the mood, so we’re all trying to joke around and remember funny things he would say and just think of what he would say if he was here,” Pearman said.
The Ivorys, a Chicago-based band, will be playing a show at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on March 26 in honor and remembrance of Polhill.
“The whole night will be a memorial to him,” Pearman said. “People are going to be reading some stuff and there will be pictures of him, so that’s being planned out, but that would be a really cool thing for people to go to.”
The college has several resources, including grief counselors, available to assist students, faculty, and staff during this difficult time. Please help us ensure that our students and other members of the college community are aware of the following resources available to those who may need them:
Residents Life and counseling staff will make wellness checks on all campus residents.
Counseling Services are available for walk-in assistance at the Counseling Center (731 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-369-8700; no appointment necessary).
Student Relations staff will be available today at the University Center of Chicago (Residence Life, 2nd floor) for any students who need assistance.
Parent inquiries should be directed to Beverly Anderson, assistant dean of student health and support (312-369-8593).
All media or other inquiries should be directed to Diane Doyne (312-369-7524) or Steve Kauffman (312-369-7383) in Media Relations.
Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program at 866-757-3271.