Lorraine Branham, former director of UT’s School of Journalism, died April 2 at age 66, prompting current faculty to reflect on her achievements and work at UT.
Branham’s career in reporting and academia spanned over four decades, including her time at UT from 2002 to 2008. Before working at UT’s Moody College of Communication, Branham worked at newspapers such as The Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, where she was the first female and African-American executive editor. After leaving UT in 2008, Branham became the first woman and first person of color to lead Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications as dean.
Kathleen McElroy, current director of UT’s journalism school, said she was inspired by Branham’s accomplishments and who she was as a person.
“It meant something to me to see a black woman was running the UT School of Journalism,” McElroy said. “It shows you what the possibilities could be. (Branham) became a
mentor and a friend. (She had) quiet power and quiet elegance. (She was) a person who made stuff happen. I was in awe of her abilities to get things done. Every time I walked away from a conversation with her, I felt smarter.”
Tracy Dahlby, a journalism professor who was hired during Branham’s tenure at UT, said he was nervous about jumping into an academic career straight from a reporting career, but Branham easily made him feel at home.
“Lorraine was the colleague of a lifetime,” Dahlby said. “When I met Lorraine, I knew I was in the right place. She had all the attributes of good editor. She was eagle-eyed, she was precise in her thinking and had great ethics … (and a) delightful sense of humor.”
Paula Poindexter, a journalism professor who received her doctorate from the Newhouse School, said it was not only Branham’s skills as a reporter and academic that made her stand out, but also her commitment to diversity. Poindexter said Branham was committed to the students she worked with, whose careers she furthered by helping them with job and internship opportunities.
“(Branham was committed to) not only (diversity) in newsrooms, but also having diverse faculty,” Poindexter said. “Diversity and a commitment to students … are two things that I will most remember her for. And if you were to ask her what she wanted to be remembered for, I would bet that would be it.”