Nursing and Wharton senior Jeffrey Lee died Sunday morning after running the Philadelphia Half Marathon, according to University spokesperson Phyllis Holtzman.
Lee, 21, was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where he died after collapsing at the finish line, according to Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush.
Though no official cause of death has been determined, Philadelphia Police spokesperson Jillian Russell told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Lee was pronounced dead at the hospital due to an apparent heart attack.
Lee’s roommate in Harrison College House, College junior Scott Lee — who has no relation to Jeffrey — said he received a phone call Sunday at about 11 a.m. from Harrison College House Dean Frank Pellicone. Scott and another friend rushed to a police station where the death was confirmed.
“We grieve that such a young and promising life has been taken from us so suddenly,” Penn President Amy Gutmann said in a statement. “At times like these we must come together as a community to mourn our loss and support the loved ones of Jeffrey Lee and one another.”
Around 50 students gathered in Harrison Sunday afternoon to mourn. “We were just praying together. There were people holding hands, just sitting together,” Engineering sophomore Jenny Kim said.
The informal gathering was hosted by the Renewal College Fellowship, the college ministry of Renewal Presbyterian Church, of which Lee was a member.
The Grace Covenant Church, which maintains close relations with RCF, hosted another prayer gathering at 10 p.m. Sunday night in Meyerson Hall for GCC and RCF members and the Penn community.
2004 College graduate and GCC pastor Shan Gian led the group of about 60 students in prayers. He encouraged people to pray for Lee’s family and for each other.
“When something like this happens, it’s hard to process it,” he said. “Don’t hold it in — share it with someone.”
Lee, a Cerritos, Calif., native, leaves behind a community where he was loved by his peers. Many agree that he was kind and sincere and are left in shock by the news.
“He created a warm, welcoming community at Penn with the student groups he’s in and the friends he has made,” Scott said.
Lee was a board member of the Residential Advisory Board and numerous student fellowship groups, as well as an anatomy teaching assistant and a member of Alpha Iota Gamma, the professional healthcare fraternity.
“We all grieved together and were in each other’s company. That’s something he would have really appreciated,” Scott said. “He appreciated little things like friendship, family and love.”
“The most important thing is to take care of each other now,” he added.
Wharton junior and RCF member Erica Jang described Lee as “a big brother to me in a lot of ways.”
“I could always confide in him. We would always have fun and he always brought a smile to my face. He is one of the sweetest and most genuine guys anyone can ever meet,” she said.
Lee was “perfectly poised to have a good life,” Scott added. Lee, a Dean’s List scholar, had planned to work at Microsoft in Washington state after graduation to be near his family.
School of Design graduate student Maggie Wood, who attended the GCC’s prayer session, was Lee’s Graduate Advisor last year.
“I saw him every day last year. He stopped by all the time, and he was one of the students I knew best. He had a lot of positive energy to give,” Wood said, adding that she wanted to “be with people” who share her grief.
For Engineering and Wharton junior Luben Li, Lee was one of the first people he ever met on campus. “I was talking to him just yesterday. I found out he was running the half marathon, and I wanted to encourage him,” he said.
“I’m kind of in shock now. It’s very surreal,” he added.
Lee completed the half marathon — a companion race to the annual Philadelphia Marathon — in just under two hours before collapsing at the finish line near the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 22nd Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Another marathon runner, a 40-year-old man unaffiliated with the University, died at Hahnemann after collapsing.
The University will hold a support session Monday at 8 p.m. in the Class of 1949 Auditorium on the second floor of Houston Hall. Students in need of extra support can visit Counseling and Psychological Services, the University Chaplain’s Office and the Vice Provost for University Life.
This article was updated to reflect the new location of Monday night’s support session, the Class of 1949 Auditorium on the second floor of Houston Hall.
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