TERRE HAUTE —
Saddened by the sudden death of Rose-Hulman President Matt Branam, student Hobey Tam found a special way to pay tribute.
He spent 10 hours — from 8 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday — on a chalk drawing that incorporates three images of Branam. One corner reads, “Rose’s very own son.”
With permission from campus authorities, Tam drew his tribute on a brick wall in Root Quadrangle near the entrance to the student commons area of Moench Hall.
He described his painstaking effort as “a therapeutic coping mechanism. … Honestly, I thought about all the stuff I didn’t get a chance to say to him. I think a lot of students are regretting that now.”
Branam, the 14th president of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, died Friday after a sudden medical emergency in his office. A public memorial service, a “Celebration of a Great Life,” is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in the Sports and Recreation Center on campus.
Tam and other students used to meet with Branam for lunch or dinner about once a month. “He was glad to talk with students” and also wanted their feedback as part of the school’s “Great Debate” strategic planning process, he said.
Tam and a few other students had met with Branam at a local dining establishment just two days before his death. “That’s my last memory of him. He was shaking my hand and smiling like there was no tomorrow,” said Tam, a senior who graduates next month.
In doing the chalk memorial, he used a projector to get outlines of Branam from photos that had been on the Rose-Hulman website.
“Rose lost a visionary leader,” said Tam, a biomedical engineering and biochemistry double major from the Indianapolis area. He once aspired to be a tattoo artist, but his family did not share his enthusiasm for that career goal.
Chalk was placed at a nearby wall, and students could write tributes to Branam. One read, “I will miss shaking your hand at graduation.” Another stated, “We will work to continue what you stood for.”
Students have found other ways to pay tribute and grieve.
Inside Hulman Union, senior Chad Conway was asking members of the Rose-Hulman community to sign four commemorative posters that will be framed. The posters consist of a matted picture of Branam, and people were signing their names on the matting.
The framed posters will be given to Branam’s three children, and one will remain at Rose-Hulman, said Conway, who helped organize the effort.
The intent is “to show what [President Branam] meant to us,” said Conway, who worked with Branam on several projects, including a Great Debate student committee and a marketing video.
He described Branam as “the biggest champion of our campus. He was very proud of the institution and always very positive, with a smile on his face, ready to help anyone and sit down with anyone.”
Branam “had such an amazing vision for where we could go,” Conway said. He wanted Rose-Hulman to be “the greatest undergraduate engineering school in the world and he wanted to make that well known.”
In addition to signing the posters, students also could write letters and place them in a box in the union’s commons area. The letters will be given to Branam’s family.
“We’re trying to be diverse and help the community in any way possible to allow them to grieve in their own way,” Conway said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@ tribstar.com
Rose students say their farewells
TERRE HAUTE —
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