Branson King Memorial Bench Dedication Ceremony

Many gathered in the quad for the unveiling of the bench to honor King’s memory


Andrew Havens

The bench dedicated to Branson King on the PennWest California Campus

Andrew Havens, Staff Writer

The PennWest California University community gathered together on October 20th to celebrate the life and legacy of student and hockey player Branson Michael King, who passed away nearly a year ago. 

The campus staff decided to dedicate a campus bench in his honor and held a ceremony to dedicate it. Branson could be seen on the bench gleaming with his portrait and the phrase “#19, Forever in Our Hearts. Aspire to be More, Not to Have More.”

Branson King Memorial Bench (Andrew Havens)

The event was organized by a myriad of people, including Randi Minerva, executive director of Annual Giving, and Jameson Roth, director of recreational services. According to Minerva, the need for action was apparent from the outpouring of support.

“The idea of dedicating a bench in memory of Branson was initially discussed during a development staff meeting,” Minerva said. “From this, we could tell that he was someone special to so many people and having a dedicated space to honor his memory would mean so much to his family and the campus community.”

Roth made sure to mention that it was a team effort from many in the administration, and even students themselves.

“The Cal Hockey Team has worked hand in hand with us to coordinate the bench dedication and other events that are going on during Homecoming to remember Branson,” Roth said. 

The event took place outside of Herron Hall in the quad, and as the sizeable crowd of about 80 people took their places, the atmosphere grew. Included in the bustle was former Pittsburgh Penguin and 2-time Stanley Cup Champion Kevin Stevens, who had just made an appearance on campus the night before.

From all walks of life at PennWest California, students, administrators, coaches and teammates were present and ready to dedicate the next 30 minutes to the life of King. Included in this group was Anthony Mauro, vice president of university development, and the first of four speakers during the event. Mauro spoke briefly of King’s legacy as a friend and teammate before turning it over to Austin King, Branson’s brother. Tearing up through certain parts, the older sibling (making his trip from the state of California) thanked the crowd for the endless support shown towards their family over the last 10 months.

“We just want to thank everyone,” Austin King said. “This is my best chance at explaining the gifts he gave to the world, his family, and his friends. The gift of Branson is the gift he gives his school with relentless pride and passion. It’s the gift he gives his team, counting blocked shots, rather than points scored. It’s the gift he gives a stranger with a subtle smile, a simple ‘I see you’.”

Austin King would attribute Branson’s untimely death as one of the biggest tragedies in his life, but also one of the largest blessings.

“It sounds crazy to say, but it’s true. Now, I get to carry him around with me every day,” Austin King said.

Following Austin was CALU hockey coach Jason Greenway. Pursing his lips and pausing multiple times, Greenway was clearly emotional during his speech, but lamented on who Branson was as a person, both on and off the ice.

“I could talk about Branson on the ice for hours,” Greenway said. “But what I admired most was his character. I mean, he seriously embodied the foundation of our hockey program here. After so many years, I kind of saw him as an adopted son of mine.”

Shaking his head and staring at the portrait of Branson attached to the newly dedicated bench, Greenway visibly teared up.

“You could really see the love he had for his teammates, for his hockey program,” Greenway said.

Wrapping up the speakers was Jerry Taylor, a former teammate of Branson’s. His stories of Branson were admittedly endless, but he made sure to mention the feeling of being side-by-side with him before a game.

“The hockey locker room was the most chaotic place in the world to be with Branson,” Taylor said. “He gave some of the most amazing pregame speeches I had ever seen in my life.”

The CALU choir, led by professor Yugo Ikach, then approached the microphone and harmonized a hymn before the ceremony’s ending. Tony Mauro spoke the final words, as the crowd then dispersed into Herron Hall for light refreshments.

“Branson King is memorialized forever,” Mauro said. “He defined what it meant to be a teammate and a leader. Thank you.”