Newhouse dean’s mentorship recognized at vigil

Newhouse dean's mentorship recognized at vigil

Hundreds gather in Hendricks Chapel to honor Lorraine Branham's contributions and compassion.
Published: April 3, 2019
Dean Branham Death
Acting Newhouse School dean Amy Falkner hugs Kelsey Davis following the Newhouse senior and co-founder of CLLCTVE's tribute to Dean Lorraine Branham.

On Wednesday afternoon, just a day after news of Dean Lorraine Branham’s death reached campus, nearly every pew on the main floor of Hendricks Chapel filled with family, faculty, and maybe most importantly to the late dean – students.

Amy Falkner, senior associate dean and current acting dean of Newhouse, shared that she wanted the vigil to be a chance for the students – most of whom were in class when the faculty and staff were informed of the dean’s death – to all come together as part of what she called the Newhouse family.

“Lorraine loved you,” she told the students. “She probably told you that herself, but if she didn’t, I’m telling you now. You should feel that and feel that in this room.”

Falkner also recognized how fresh the grief was that the gathered crowd was experiencing. “If the news seems sudden, it’s because it was.” She explained that the Newhouse faculty and Hendricks staff hurried to put the vigil together as quickly as possible as a tribute to the sense of community Branham was well-known for creating.

“Our great friend, mentor, partner in crime, instigator, innovator, jokester – that was Lorraine Branham,” Falkner said, going on to share how many lives she saw Branham’s mentorship improve.

“Her role was always to say, I think you can do this and here’s how you can do this,” she said. “She would lead you.”

Branham’s mentorship was especially significant to Television/Radio/Film senior Kelsey Davis, who was invited to the vigil to contribute as a student voice.

Davis recalled sitting in Goldstein Auditorium as a freshman back in 2015, and “witnessed the bold, black and brilliant Dean Lorraine Branham welcome the class of 2019.”

“Coming into Newhouse as a student of color, I, like many of my fellow peers, was thrilled to know that my next four years away from home would be spent under the intentional, challenging and maternal leadership of someone who looked like me,” she said.

By sophomore year, Davis’ media entrepreneurship endeavors took off, but at the expense of her academics. She questioned her place in Newhouse so seriously that she told her advisor she was considering dropping out.

Dean Branham made it very clear to Davis that her poor academic standing wasn’t a reflection of her worth, or the potential contributions Davis was still capable of making at SU and in the media industry at large. The dean worked to personally set Davis up with advisors and courses that would allow her to both pursue business projects and stay academically engaged.



“Dean Branham once said, ‘The world is changing quickly and in sometimes unexpected ways and we know that tomorrow’s leaders will have to be innovative,’” Davis said, choking up.

“Yesterday, for many of us, our world changed completely in an unexpected way.”

Davis closed by urging her peers to better the world and honor the things Branham championed by walking through the doors that she opened “with a passionate fire ignited inside of you to honor my dean’s legacy and your dean’s legacy.”

After formal remarks concluded, those in attendance were invited to walk to the lawn outside Newhouse 3 to tie ribbons in the nearby trees as a public memorial.

“We found it appropriate to tie a little orange in the shadow of the First Amendment,” Hendricks Chapel dean Brian Konkol said.  

After the vigil, Newhouse assistant professor of communications Jennifer Grygiel added how much Dean Branham encouraged a sense of community at Newhouse.

“She loved the students, but she loved the faculty and she really knew how to bring community together, so it was just nice to be with people who knew her, and to support and recognize her life.”

Even SU community members not directly associated with Newhouse paid tribute, including VPA junior Patricia Douglas, who is the public relations director at Renegade Magazine.

“[Renegade is] a magazine on campus that she founded. She got us the money to start the magazine, so it’s really special to know that I’m a part of something that she was even though I’m not directly in the school,” Douglas said.



Students, staff and community members tie orange ribbons to the trees outside Newhouse 3 in honor of Dean Lorraine Branham.

“I think you’ve all seen and read what a trailblazer Lorraine was both certainly in the newspaper industry as a journalist, and certainly as an academic dean,” Falkner said. “A woman of color in those businesses – and running and leading and doing what she did was amazing.”

“What an influencer, and what a memory for us to live by,” she said.