HSU President on Personal Leave Following Son's Death

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Humboldt State University informed the campus community this morning that President Tom Jackson Jr. “has stepped away from his presidential duties” temporarily but indefinitely following the Oct. 6 death of his 22-year-old son TJ Jackson in a car crash in South Dakota.

Vice President of University Advancement Frank Whitlatch will serve as acting president through Sunday, after which Vice President of Enrollment Management Jason Meriwether will fill the role “until Jackson returns,” the university announced. In the announcement sent to the HSU campus community, the university notes a memorial service will be held for TJ Jackson Oct. 13.

“TJ was loved by many for his sincere heart, multitude of talents and sense of adventure,” a brief obituary published to the Isburg Funeral Homes website states.

According to the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the fatal crash occurred the afternoon of Oct. 6 when a 2015 Maserati Ghibli driven by 21-year-old Jaden Olson rear-ended a semi truck on Interstate 90. Olson and his two passengers — TJ Jackson and 55-year-old Titus Ironshield — were all pronounced dead at the scene. All were wearing seatbelts, according to police, who added that the semi driver and his passenger were uninjured.


According to a report by ABC KOTA in Spearfish, South Dakota, police had received reports about "speeding vehicle through town" shortly before the crash. The station also reports that police had been called to an apartment complex a short time earlier to a report of "two males in their early 20s pounding on doors and windows, yelling for someone to let them in the building." Witnesses reported the two men left in a white Maserati before police responded to the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.

Tom Jackson Jr. was appointed HSU’s eighth president in May of 2019 after serving five years as president of Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, where TJ studied photography, according to his Facebook page.

In the biography on TJ Jackson's Facebook page, he describes himself as "photographer, skateboarder, rock climber, adrenaline junkie." On Feb. 18, his birthday, he asked folks to contribute to a fundraiser he'd set up instead of buying him gifts.

"For my birthday this year, I'm asking for donations to Mental Health Foundation," he wrote. "I've chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you'll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me."

The university suggests a number of ways to share condolences and thoughts with the Jackson family, which are detailed in this morning’s message, which is copied below.

Acting President and Condolences for President Jackson

President Jackson has stepped away from his presidential duties temporarily due to the death of his son. Vice President of University Advancement, Frank Whitlatch, is serving as Acting President through Sunday, Oct. 11. Jason Meriwether, Vice President of Enrollment Management, will serve as Acting President starting Monday, Oct. 12 until Dr. Jackson returns.

Also, many of you have asked how to share your condolences with the president following the announcement of his son’s death. There are several ways to do that.

Send your thoughts to hsupres@humboldt.edu and they will be compiled and sent to the president. Staff Council has also created a condolences card for staff and faculty to sign.

You may also mail cards or messages to the following address:
TJ Jackson
c/o Countryside Church
625 Woodland Dr.
Spearfish, SD 57783

The memorial service for TJ will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m.

An award for Creative Photography students has been established in TJ’s memory at Black Hills State University (BHSU). Donations can be sent to:
TJ Jackson
c/o BHSU Foundation
1352 St. Joe St.
Spearfish, SD 57783

Thank you to everyone in the campus community for your thoughtful words of kindness and support for Dr. Jackson and his family.

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