OC has a tradition of one syllable names that started years ago with The Barn. It continued with The Nest, The Dub and The Brew. In this tradition, the name of the new cafeteria became obvious. We honor former OC President and First Lady, Alfred and Judy Branch by naming the new campus cafeteria The Branch.
The couple deeply loves their alma mater and have expressed their affection through volunteering, leading, serving on the Board of Trustees and donating $2.5 million to the university in recent years. The Branches have met needs as small as a fresh coat of paint and as large as $1 million dollars to help advance OC’s School of Nursing to the fastest growing nursing program in the state.
A pre-opening dinner honoring donors looked like a Branch family reunion. This legacy family has seen generations of OC alums beginning with Sylvia Branch and Joanne North. Sisters from Florida who made OC home. The Branch and North families have helped shape OC, in nearly every capacity, for decades. Alfred Branch dedicated the evening’s dinner to his Aunt JoAnne, the consummate hostess.
“JoAnne North taught us everything we know about hosting college students in our home. Nineteen years of Sunday, college student dinners for her children, me and all of my children totaled 621 meals. She often included our friends, roommates, boyfriends and girlfriends. She is a beautiful person and a wonderful cook who taught us the importance of gathering around the table together. Tonight we celebrate a brand new kitchen and dining room that will be filled with college students. It’s the perfect time to honor Aunt JoAnne,” said Branch.
The entire room, most who had experienced Joanne’s hospitality, erupted in a prolonged standing ovation. A matriarch of the OC family, the influence of JoAnne North will forever be a part of campus.
President John deSteiguer retraced the journey of completing the project. It began in 2015, with a check from Kurt and Debbie Hermanson and UDining for $1 million dollars. According to deSteiguer, Hermanson is the only person not employed by OC to win employee of the year. His 40 years on campus has earned him an honorary alum designation as a beloved member of the community. And now, deSteiguer revealed a beautiful sign in The Branch identifying Kurt’s Court.
Many of OC’s faithful supporters united to fund building the new cafeteria without using any tuition revenue. The best seats in the house are in a corner named Lawson View overlooking the groomed park known as Lawson Commons, both made possible by Richard and Pat Lawson. Big screens line the walls of the sports-themed room, Harry’s Place, named for Harry and Brenda Patterson. An anonymous donor honored dear friends of hers by naming a special event dining room the Duncan Room for David and Barbara Duncan. A highly caffeinated corner of the serving area, The Brew, maintains a connection with the popular campus coffee shop and is the namesake of Trustee Chairman Mark and Beth Brewer.
More friends and supporters of the university made the light filled dining hall possible: Ralph and Darla Chain, Kay Onstead, Charlie and Lesa Branch, Jeff and Natalie Bonney, Don and Donna Millican, Herman and LaDonna Meinders, Greg and Valerie Wedel, Greg and Mary Jia, Dennis and Dena Lovett, Allen and Karen Goode, Gene and Judy McOwn, Todd and Dee Dobson, Dwain and Loretta Chaffin, Richard and Mo Anderson, Charles and Jeanene Bare plus the Gaylord and Mabee Foundations, Daniel and Beth Holland, Jim Ketcherside, David and Kimberly Reiter, Larry and Paula Harms, Silas and Kenna Morris, Patrick and Sere Allen, the Shumard Foundation, Jaron and Michaela Brandt, David and Kelly Burmeier, Todd and Jamie Fraser, Blake and Kacee Blackwell, David and Mary Seat, Allison Parfenov, Terry and Tina Winn, Sandie Olson, Steve and Jan Plumlee and Kevin and Linda Orr.
Student Government Association President, Abigail Kent expressed appreciation on behalf of the student body. Identifying OC as a place of personal, innovative, missional challengers who seek to change the world with the stories they tell. Kent believes these characteristics are founded in the value of community.
“We all need people with whom we can relate, brainstorm, rehearse the Gospel and have challenging conversations. The blessing of this new cafeteria will serve as a venue to build such relationships based on common faith and characteristics. You have contributed to the legacy of the university and the lives of OC students in an impactful and tangible way,” said Kent. “May this place be full of laughter, generosity and fellowship that draws the OC family closer and glorifies the Lord.”
Initial reactions from students on opening day included comments such as:
“This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten on this campus. They made me a custom burger!”
“I wish I was a freshman so I’d have four years to enjoy it.”
“The orange chicken was super good.”
“I was surprised. It’s really nice and there are a lot of options.”
“I absolutely love it! It’s a great change that’s definitely worth my money.”
“It’s beyond my expectations.”
Community develops around dinner tables and the new dining room, filled with natural light and surrounded by beautiful views, will be a place where relationships begin and grow. Memories will be made at The Branch.