Scholarship fund honors journalist Lorraine Branham

A Temple alumna and former Syracuse journalism dean died in April from uterine cancer.

Arlene Morgan, assistant dean for external affairs at Klein College of Media and Communication, reads the late Lorraine Branham’s obituary on Friday, Sept. 20. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

It was a humid, hot day in Dallas, Texas at the National Association of Black Journalists’ convention in the summer of 1986.

Arlene Morgan went to a dive bar to escape the heat, where she was introduced to Lorraine Branham by their mutual friend Acel Moore.

At the time, Morgan, the assistant dean for external affairs at Klein College of Media and Communication, was a recruiter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and immediately urged Branham to interview for the paper’s assistant city desk editor position.

Branham, who was working at the Baltimore Sun, moved to the Inquirer ‘s city desk in 1987 and later became the associate managing editor for features, Morgan said. 

“She was just one of these people that even when she had to tell them to go to hell, they loved her,” Morgan said.

In April, Branham, 66, died after losing her battle with uterine cancer. Temple will honor her memory with the Lorraine Branham Scholarship fund, an annual scholarship given to a Klein student starting in the spring semester. 

The endowed fund has raised more than $25,000 through donations from Lorraine’s friends and colleagues, and will hopefully continue to grow, said Karen Gallagher, assistant dean of development and alumni relations at Klein.

Branham, a 1976 television, radio and film alumna, came to Temple as a single mother. Morgan said she credits the university for Branham’s self-confidence.

“She told me once that this school meant everything to her because it gave her a chance to excel and to really thrive and move ahead,” she added.

David Boardman, dean of Klein, praises Branham’s work as an outstanding leader in both the fields of journalism and journalism education.

“We were proud to claim her as an alumna … and deeply saddened by her death earlier this year,” Boardman wrote in an email to The Temple News. “We are gratified that contributions from her friends and family will support the Lorraine Branhams of the future.”

Morgan, along with Roy Campbell, a former fashion editor at the Inquirer, helped create the scholarship fund.

Campbell said that as a journalist, Branham advocated for diversity. Working closely with her at the Inquirer, he said her goal was to assure her reporters got prominent placement in the paper and minorities were covered fairly.

“One of her favorite sayings was ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’” Campbell said. “I fought that battle and I got tired of it and switched to do something else. Lorraine was never tired of it, she fought on.”

As a journalist in the late 1980s, Branham faced criticism and racism from fellow journalists, which Morgan said she believes was due to professional jealousy. Yet, Branham never showed resentment, she added.

“She wasn’t bitter, and she didn’t wear any type of anger on her sleeve,” Morgan said. “She faced it, and I just don’t remember her ever complaining or bitching about it.”

After her time at the Inquirer, Branham became both the first woman and Black executive editor for the Tallahassee Democrat. 

Branham moved into academia, leaving the journalism business behind, in 2002.  

“She said she was getting tired of making all the cuts,” Morgan said. 

Branham became the director of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and stayed there until 2008, when she was offered a dean position at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

As a dean, she established several programs, like the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, to meet the digital change happening within journalism. Branham also allocated $18 million for the renovation and creation of projects, like the Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center, according to The Newhouse School.

Branham’s husband Melvin Williams said that being the dean at a prestigious school was an integral part of her aspirations and accomplishments.

“It was the crown jewel of her ambition and a personal goal,” he added. “She was very proud of the job.”

Around this time last year, Branham and Williams returned from a trip to China, where Branham complained about pain in her lower abdomen. She was later diagnosed with stage-four uterine cancer, he said.

“I only saw her cry once, that’s when she first got the diagnosis. She said, ‘This is how my life is going to end,’” Williams said. “I never saw her cry again about it, or complain, she was an exceptionally strong woman.”

Morgan added that she believes Branham would’ve been touched by the scholarship because it will bring honor to her forever.

“Lorraine made a difference, to anybody who worked for her she touched,” she said.“I just knew when we were in that bar drinking, I thought to myself ‘Oh god, this girl’s going to be a star, I know it.’”

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