The usually busy corner of Speedway and 21st Street grew silent Friday afternoon, when a community gathered to dedicate a tree memorializing the life of freshman Harrison Brown five months after he was killed on campus in May.
A short ceremony preceded the tree dedication, with speeches made by friends and family. The Harrison Brown Memorial Tree was marked with a plaque and now lies on the corner of 21st and Speedway. Earlier in the day at 10 a.m., the University held a flag-lowering ceremony for the Brown family.
“The permanence of a tree, the growth and the extended life that a tree has on campus, (and) also being in such a prominent location on campus, I think really signifies the importance and the feeling that Harrison can bring to unite campus,” said student body vice president Micky Wolf, one of the organizers behind the tree memorial. “He’ll be (there) forever, and I think it’s a fitting place to remember him at UT.”
The location for the tree was picked to be in one of the hearts of campus, said Wolf, Plan II and business honors major. The tree lies across the street from Brown’s dorm.
Brown was killed in an on-campus stabbing in May, in which three other students were also injured. He was an undeclared freshman.
During the ceremony, Brown’s older brother John spoke about celebrating Harrison’s life and the ambitions he had while at UT.
“What differentiates us from one another is what we chose to do with the time we have,” John Brown said during the ceremony. “Although Harrison’s life was cut tragically short, he didn’t waste the time. It was a life well-lived.”
Brown’s friend Stephen Wilhelm, a physics sophomore, said although he had only known Harrison for five months, he felt like he had known him for much longer because of his open personality.
“He was just always so genuine,” Wilhelm said during the ceremony. “He was so wholly himself all of the time.”
Students, family members, organizers, acquaintances and people who just wanted to show the Brown family support turned out on Speedway for the dedication of Brown’s tree.
“I decided to come out here to show my respects … it’s the only way I know how,” said Courtney Austin, a biology senior. “I can’t imagine (the family’s) pain right now.”
Student body president Alejandrina Guzman was also in attendance. She said the tree will help to honor Brown and unite the campus in his memory.
“This means family and unity,” Guzman said. “It means coming together as a community to continue celebrating the life of Harrison, and it means that there’s a lot of love.”
Brent Iverson, dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, helped plan the tree memorial service. He said for years to come, the tree will be seen by all who walk by every single day and serve as a reminder of Brown’s time on campus.
Come springtime, Brown’s tree — a Mexican Plum tree — will be clouded with fragrant white blooms.
“It is a living memory,” Iverson said during the ceremony. “As this tree continues to thrive and grow through the years, it will serve as a fitting, living reminder of a live very well lived … We will remember Harrison Brown had a life very well lived.”