Family raising money for Dr. Lespi memorial fund

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

The family of the late Dr. Robert Jeremy Lespi is raising money to help fund a creative writing scholarship established in the former college professor’s name.

Lespi, a graduate of Shelby County High School, died at age 30 on Dec. 26, 2007 from multiple health issues.

The University of Southern Mississippi has established the scholarship fund to go to a deserving writing student. However, the family needs to raise $10,000 so the memorial fund can be awarded annually.

“Jeremy faced many challenges in his life: growing up in a single-parent home, chronic health conditions and coming from a small town that most people have never even heard of, but he never gave up,” his sister, Nicole Rose, wrote in a letter. “He achieved more in his short life than most people will ever even dream of.”

Lespi graduated with honors from Shelby County in 1996 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Montevallo. He then earned a doctorates degree in creative writing from Southern Mississippi.

Lespi travelled to France to study poetry and art. He also taught at Southern Mississippi’s sister program in Pontlevoy, France, for two semesters and was voted by students as the “favorite professor” both semesters.

He returned from overseas and accepted a job teaching through the University of Alabama’s English department, a position he held until his death.

“As a professor, he strove to instruct his students and help them realize their potential as individuals,” Rose wrote. “He found pleasure in helping others grow.”

Donations for the scholarship fund can be made two ways through, or through this address: The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation; For: Memorial Fund for Jeremy Lespi; 118 College Drive #10026; Hattiesburg, MS 39406. Make checks payable to “USM Foundation-Memorial fund for Jeremy Lespi.”