OC mourns passing of Charles Branch

Sylvia and Charles Branch
Sylvia and Charles Branch

Dr. Charles Branch, Sr., one of the most cherished members of the Oklahoma Christian University family, passed away Friday, Dec. 6 at age 87.

He and his wife Sylvia recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. She and other members of the Branch family were with Charles when God called him home.

The memorial service will be held at MacArthur Park Church of Christ in San Antonio at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Memorials may be sent to Oklahoma Christian University, in care of The Charles and Sylvia Branch Family Scholarship Fund (email: kent.allen@oc.edu), or to IHCF African Christian Hospitals, in care of The Charles and Sylvia Branch Emergency Center at Nigerian Christian Hospital (email: tom.ihcf@sbcglobal.net).

“Charles was a wonderful man who exemplified Christ in his life,” the family said in a statement. “He was a man of faith dedicated to his God, beloved wife Sylvia of over 60 years, his family, and the many others he helped and served throughout his life. Our family is thankful to all of you and who have been praying for Dad during his illness and encouraging Mom in her steadfast dedication to his care.”

Dr. Branch was the patriarch of a family that is in its fifth decade of leadership and involvement with Oklahoma Christian.

Branch family at 2010 Alumni BanquetThe Branch children – Charlie (77), Warren (77), Dan (80), Alfred (84), and Cynthia Branch Adams (86) – all attended OC and have gone on to remarkable careers of their own while actively supporting their alma mater. Alfred was a longtime executive vice president at Oklahoma Christian and served as OC’s fifth president.

Four of Charles and Sylvia’s grandchildren – Daniel Branch (05), Henson Adams (11), Meagan Branch Lytton (11), and Lee Branch (an OC senior) – have called Oklahoma Christian home.

There are many more potential OC students in this and future generations of the Branch family. The Branches received the university’s inaugural “Legacy Award” in 2010.

“Dr. Charles Branch is an Oklahoma Christian hero,” President John deSteiguer said. “A longtime trustee and generous supporter, Dr. Branch made OC his university. He was always encouraging us and always championing us. Charles and Sylvia are inspiring examples of faithful, committed Christians. The entire OC community mourns with Sylvia and the family over Charles’ passing. I will miss this great man whom I loved and admired.”

Dr. Branch served on the university’s Board of Trustees for 20 years before becoming a Life Trustee. He was an active member of MacArthur Park Church of Christ, where he served as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, medical missionary and elder for more than 43 years.

Born Aug. 9, 1926, in Bells, Tenn., he later moved with his family to Jackson, Tenn. He honorably served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II.

After the war, he attended David Lipscomb College in Nashville, known today as Lipscomb University, and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1949 and Vanderbilt University Medical School in 1953. He completed a neurosurgical residency at the University of Chicago and while there received a fellowship to McGill University.

Dr. Branch became a prominent and distinguished neurosurgeon, whose expertise in the field was demonstrated in his practice, his teaching, and his numerous published works on a host of neurological and neurosurgical topics.

He was a clinical professor at McGill University Medical School and at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and a distinguished guest lecturer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

He also was a vocational minister in Montreal, Canada, for 15 years and annually served as a medical missionary to African Christian Hospital for many years.

He received the 2004 AANS Humanitarian Award for his medical mission work in Nigeria, Haiti and Guyana. In 2010, the renowned Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas in Dallas honored him by creating the Charles L. Branch Award to recognize the nation’s leading neuroscientists.

“My grandfather lived a wonderful life that was full of great accomplishments by earthly standards. He changed the lives of so many people through his skilled hands as a neurosurgeon and left his mark in the medical field,” said Henson Adams, a former OC Student Government Association president who earned one of OC’s Distinguished Young Alumni awards in 2012. “However, his greatest gifts to this world were the countless people he influenced spiritually and the vast many people he lent a helping hand to when they were in need. He was a humble servant of the Lord and a steward of the gifts that God has given to him.”

Charlie and Lesa Williams Branch gave a $1.5 million gift to Oklahoma Christian in 2004 for the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies, named for Charles and Sylvia and for Lesa’s parents, Charles and Joyce Williams.

“Oklahoma Christian University is a special place. The university stands for the real value of Christian principles and the value of Christian family,” Charlie said at the building’s dedication. “So many entities in today’s society are tearing down the family, and we hope that, in some way, holding up our parents will remind all of us how valuable and important the family is. This institution, and what it stands for and what it’s doing, is very special to our parents. It’s almost natural that we could honor them and bless other people at the same time.”

Click here to read a Vision magazine feature on the Branch family from 2010, when they were honored with OC’s inaugural Legacy Award.

Click here to read Lynn McMillon’s interview with Dr. Branch from a 2010 edition of The Christian Chronicle.