Senior art major remembered for her positivity, compassion

Emily Kristin Jackson is rarely remembered without her signature smile, her contagious optimism or her ability to go above and beyond to help others.

“There was a perceptible difference in the energy of a room when she walked in,” art professor Jo Stealey said. “She had this effervescent personality and positive attitude that just exuded from her and infected everyone. You were a better person when you were around her.”

Jackson, 23, died in her Columbia home on Thursday, March 21. A 2008 graduate of Lebanon High School, she planned to graduate in May with a bachelor of fine arts degree.

“Emily was just a ray of sunshine,” said Ferrie Craighead, office support associate for the Department of Art. “She was always happy and just brightened up everyone’s day with her beautiful smile.”

Services were held for Jackson at the Wright-Baker-Hill Funeral Home in Brookfield, Mo., on March 27, and she was buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Brookfield. Friends from MU whose lives Jackson impacted traveled to Brookfield to attend the service.

Stealey said she and others in the art department had no second thought about traveling to the memorial service.

“She was a greatly valued member of our community and a dear friend,” Stealey said. “It was important for us to mourn her untimely passing, support her family and come together to celebrate the moments we had with her. It was very healing for all of us.”

Jackson was born on February 20, 1990, in Jefferson City, and her family moved frequently during her childhood. She lived in Jefferson City and Bonne Terre before calling Lebanon, Mo., where she attended kindergarten through high school, home.

“She was just outgoing from the time she was a baby,” Jackson’s father, Keith, said.

Emily Jackson was a lover of animals, caring after the family’s three dogs and three cats, her “furries,” all adopted from various humane shelters. At MU she kept a pet goldfish, Annabelle, in her apartment.

“She loved animals so much,” Keith Jackson said. “If she could have taken one or more of our pets with her to school she would have. During the arrangements for the funeral service, we were trying to figure out a memorial in lieu of flowers, and we decided to make a memorial to the Linn County Humane Society because she loved animals so much. We thought that would be appropriate.”

Keith Jackson said his daughter was a champion of the underdog.

“She was a very accepting, nurturing young lady. She didn’t like to see people being mean and could get pretty feisty when it came to standing up for others.”

Emily Jackson was even protective of her older brother.

“She would get quite vocal if she felt someone was being wrong toward him,” her father said. “She would certainly jump in and intervene to stand up for any of her family or friends.”

Jackson’s passion for art began in her junior year at Lebanon High School when she took art history and advanced art classes with Lebanon High School teacher Elizabeth Barker. Jackson went on to organize an art festival for high school students in her senior year.

Barker, who also knew Emily Jackson through her involvement in the school’s International Club, said Jackson was one of her dearest former students. Barker said Emily was a friend to exchange students and made them feel welcome.

“Emily was a vivacious, forward-looking girl who was honest and kind to those around her,” Barker said in an email. “I will always remember her smiling and laughing. She had a wonderful sense of humor and often used it to highlight contradictions in the world around her.”

In her last three semesters as an MU student, Emily Jackson took courses in the fibers studio of the art department. Though Stealey didn’t teach Jackson until this spring, she knew Jackson throughout her time in the studio.

“We become a family over here,” Stealey said.

Stealey, the fibers program director, said Jackson, a serious and hard-working student, fell in love with the fibers courses and decided to focus her energy on the art form.

Jackson took Stealey’s senior seminar course, in which she was required to submit ideas for her future. Jackson wanted to continue to graduate school and become an art teacher, while focusing on fibers.

“She found that she enjoyed working with people and sharing her passion for art,” Stealey said.

Jackson was a hard worker, juggling two jobs to pay for her studies at MU. She worked at the front desk of University Place Apartments and worked her way to student manager of Rollins Dining Hall.

Rollins Dining Hall Manager Trisha Grant promoted Jackson to her management position. Grant didn’t have to worry when Jackson was on duty.

"It would upset her when something wasn't done properly, Grant said. “She really cared about her work. I knew that whenever she was on duty I didn't need to worry."

Jackson would often talk about her mother and brother, with whom she was very close, and about her art studies. Throughout her work, Jackson always had a positive attitude.

"She had a lovely, bright personality," Grant said. "She was always peppy, had a smile and really cared about her work, family and studies. She was wonderful."

UPA Manager Doug Miller said Jackson was a very good employee.

"She had a great amount of loyalty," Miller said. "She took pride in her job and the building and took it to heart when people were having issues. She really tried to help. When it came to duties, she always went above and beyond."

Miller said Jackson was also a definite friend. 

"She had a smile that could light up the room," he said. "She was willing to go the extra mile, and that showed in her friendships, her work and her art. She took pride in it. She was a good person."

Each of Jackson's coworkers at Rollins signed a card to give to her parents at the Mizzou Remembers Ceremony on at 2 p.m. Friday. The ceremony will also honor eight other graduate and undergraduate students who have died since April 2012.

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