Campus News

‘UK at the Half’: A mother’s light through the darkness of suicide

Photo of Taylor Nolan
Taylor Nolan was a sophomore at UK when she died by suicide on Jan. 8, 2019.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 7, 2024) — On Jan. 8, 2019 — the day before she was set to start the spring semester of her sophomore year at the University of Kentucky, Taylor Nolan died by suicide.

In this “UK at the Half,” five years later, Taylor’s mother, Taylora Schlosser, reflects on her only daughter’s life.

“She had a bubbly personality and really liked helping people,” Taylora continued. “One young man once told me, ‘She was the only person who ever smiled at me in school.’”

The saying goes, “We are not defined by tragedy, but instead, by how we respond to it.”

Taylor’s family soon decided they would turn their tragic reality into a movement with a critical mission. “My son said, ‘Momma, we’re not going to be ashamed of Taylor — we’re going to do something.”

By the end of February 2019, the family had established a non-profit, and Rae of Sunshine was born. In Taylor’s name, they work to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide.

The foundation also brings awareness, gives back and partners with schools, churches, institutions and other groups across Kentucky to provide support and training that stresses the importance of mental health.

Taylora started by speaking to Taylor’s Chi Omega sisters. “I knew we had to change something,” she said. “I didn’t want another mother to live through what I live through every day.”

In the five years since Rae of Sunshine’s inception, Taylora has spoken to more than 70,000 people across the state and has an audience of nearly 15,000 followers on social media.

Even more importantly, the foundation has awarded $50,000 in scholarships to future mental health professionals.

“I’m really proud of this work,” Taylora said. “It’s really important this continues to grow, because mental health issues don’t discriminate.”

Additionally, through Rae of Sunshine, dozens of schools have launched SMILE Clubs, including UK. The goal is to promote acts of kindness and positivity.

“I want to make sure there’s not people walking around in a world every day where no one smiles at them,” Taylora said. “Smiling and making people feel comfortable, that was Taylor’s legacy. But what is our legacy going to be?”

Today, and going forward, Taylora chooses to cherish the memories and not focus on the “what ifs.”

She still has dreams of Taylor and a vision for her legacy. “If I can dream about her when I sleep, that’s the best day,” Taylora continued.

“And, like Taylor, if we can be kind, I think it would make the world a little bit nicer — a little bit sunnier.”

"UK at the Half" airs during halftime of each UK football and basketball game broadcast on radio and is hosted by UK Public Relations and Marketing. To hear the "UK at the Half" interview, click on the play button above. 

You can read more about Taylor’s story and Rae of Sunshine here.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.