Members of the Tabor College community—students, faculty, staff and residents of Hillsboro—gathered Sept. 25 at the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church to celebrate the life of Brandon Brown and mourn his passing.
Brown, a junior at Tabor College and a member of the football team, was originally from Sacramento and transferred to the school this fall.
Jules Glanzer, Tabor president, opened the memorial service by recognizing the grief, sadness and sense of loss and frustration the community is experiencing.
Glanzer said even though the community was hurting and the pain was real, people should know that God is caring and compassionate.
“God understands,” Glanzer said. “He too had a son and lost him to death.”
Aleen Ratzlaff, professor of communication and Brown’s academic advisor, shared some of what she knew and loved about the recent transfer.
“Brandon loved family—they meant a great deal to him,” Ratzlaff said. “He clearly understood that the reason he was at Tabor College was to earn a degree, and he was making academics a priority.”
During the service, students laughed, cried and sang as they worshiped and reflected on the life of their fellow student.
Student Josh Murphy composed and performed a song in tribute to Brown that was played during a slideshow prepared by three football teammates.
Rusty Allen, vice president for athletics and enrollment management, spoke about Brown’s impact on the campus—including football coach Mike Gardner’s pleasure with Brown’s contribution to the team.
Allen said Brown did not play organized football until junior college, so he was a relative newcomer to the game, but had great defensive skills nonetheless.
Allen acknowledged the difficult time, but referenced God’s plan through Isaiah 61:1-3.
“I believe God is ready to trade beauty for our ashes,” he said. “I am not saying the grief and mourning will be forgotten, or that they do not remain a healthy part of the process we are going through.”
He said out of the sorrow and sadness of this event, some good could arise.
“What if Brandon’s tragedy moves us to following Christ more intentionally so that our world becomes more like God intended it?” Allen asked.
Classes scheduled for after the service were cancelled to allow the community the opportunity to interact.