After learning that Dean Lorraine Branham had died battling cancer on Tuesday, Syracuse University and wider media industry began to publicly mourn her loss and pay tribute to the influence she had on their lives.
Branham, who served as the Dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for 11 years, following decades as a newspaper reporter, was considered a champion of promoting diversity in media. She’s been lauded for her dedication to improving and innovating communications education and was widely considered to be an inspiration and mentor to both her students and her fellow journalists.
SU students, faculty, and staff have shared what they learned and what they’ll take away from the woman who so many consider an icon in her field.
Allie Caren, The Washington Post video producer and Newhouse Class of 2014
“She is the one who told me I got into Newhouse. She got the whole newspaper thing because she worked in the industry before coming to Newhouse. Her impact will live on. She helped make the school what it is today and that will be her legacy.”
Bill Werde, Bandier Program director
As former Billboard editorial director, Werde met several times with Branham to discuss the Bandier opportunity. Werde credits the dean for convincing him to take a leap of faith and join academia.
“Lorraine was a superhero to me. Such a force, so much energy. She has so much fun taking chances and building new things in a way that really spoke to me, and my past experiences like at Billboard.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if I would have made the move if it weren’t for her. She was that much of an inspiration. When she took her first leave for health reasons, I think at first we missed her ’cause we felt the difference in the program … but then we just missed her. Her energy you know really was such a big part of what kept me focused and energized.”
“Newhouse will go on – we all come and we all go and these institutions remain but Lorraine was pretty amazing. She left her mark all over this place in ways that are so incredible.”
Hub Brown, associate dean for research, creativity, international initiatives & diversity at Newhouse
“She always said it was our job to make this the preeminent school of journalism and mass communication in the world and we will continue our mission of world domination for her.”
Corinne Adamski, director of programming at WERW Real College Radio and Newhouse Class of 2019
On Tuesday morning, as people posted tributes across social media, Newhouse student Corinne Adamski tweeted “My heart is heavy after hearing about the loss of one of the most inspiring and influential women in my college career.”
Daijha Thompson, Newhouse Class of 2021
“Dean Branham is the person who I attribute to being at Newhouse. She always used to tell me – That in order to make friends you have show yourself friendly. That is the one thing that has impacted my entire Newhouse career and life and continues to do so, even with her gone.”
Lakshmi Singh, NPR broadcaster and Newhouse Class of 1994
Students, faculty and staff gathered at the Race and the Media symposium Tuesday night, hours after Branham’s passing was announced. Following a moment of silence in her memory, Singh opened her keynote talk with few words about the dean.
“It’s sort of bittersweet to be up here today to take part in this symposium that was so important to her. She would love this because this is her legacy and her dream. I’m grateful for Dean Branham for insisting we keep the conversation on race going. Her presence is sorely missed.”
Aileen Gallagher, magazine associate professor at Newhouse
Magazine professor Aileen Gallagher tweeted her tribute to the late dean. “She helped the school grow, she always stood up for journalism, and she was a great supporter of women.”
Brooke Lewis, Houston Chronicle community reporter and Newhouse Class of 2015
“We all found it inspiring that a black woman was the head of the journalism program. I am sad she’s gone but she left an amazing legacy.”
Jim Shahin, magazine associate professor at Newhouse
As the organizer of the Race and the Media symposium, Shahin said Branham’s impact is reflected in school initiatives that aimed to make a difference in society.
“She had a deep commitment to the issue of diversity in general and we as profs hopefully have learned from her how to be more attentive to the issue of race and diversity.”
Joel Kaplan, associate dean for graduate studies at Newhouse
Kaplan said Branham arrived at the right time for Newhouse and was able to help the school thrive in so many ways over the past decade. Kaplan recalled a trip to China where the two met up with an alum who kept serving her cocktails but never seemed to phase her.
“I was pouring it in the plant behind me while she just kept drinking because that’s the kind of person she was. She was always accommodating, she was always helpful. She loved the Newhouse school she loved the staff faculty and students.
“It going to be a loss because you don’t find someone like that very often.”
Saniya More, Newhouse Class of 2019
Newhouse senior Saniya More took to Twitter on Tuesday to share the impact Branham had on her. “She showed me I am capable of inspiring change, regardless of my gender, citizenship, or the color of my skin.”
Lorraine Branham transformed the way we tell stories about minority groups, forgotten communities & the world beyond. She showed me I am capable of inspiring change, regardless of my gender, citizenship, or the color of my skin. Rest In Peace, Dean Branham. We miss you already.
— Saniya More (@saniyamore) April 2, 2019
While a formal campus memorial was still being planned as of Tuesday, a vigil in Branham’s honor will take place at 3 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel.
In an email to the campus community on Tuesday, Chancellor Kent Syverud offered a reminder that student services at the Counseling Center are available 24/7 at (315) 443-4715. Faculty and staff can reach out for assistance to Carebridge at (800) 437-0911, and Hendricks Chapel will be available to offer additional support.
Finally, Syverud offered condolences to, “Dean Branham’s family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, students and every individual she has inspired throughout her prolific career.”