The University Union Plaza will be glowing with the light of candles tonight at 5:45 p.m. as students, staff, faculty and members of the community remember Brandon Huang, a man who “never craved the spotlight.”
“He was always someone who you wanted to be like,” said business administration sophomore Brian Henson, a close friend of Huang’s since first grade. “He just had a presence about him that made people become more, become better.”
Henson grew up playing basketball with Huang and enjoyed a “steady, close relationship” since they met, he said. He always viewed Huang as a genuinely nice person who put others before himself, but it wasn’t until their senior year of high school that he understood the true degree of Huang’s selflessness, he said.
A selfless player
During their final year in varsity basketball, the lineup changed and Brandon played less than he had in the past, Henson said.
“Just about any of us would have been upset,” Henson said. “Yet he wasn’t. He was still the hardest worker every day in practice, despite not getting as much game time as he would have liked.”
The lineup remained unchanged as the season wore on, yet he still contributed to the team in any possible way and continued to be the biggest supporter, Henson said.
“It’s in those trying moments that he was able to show his true character,” he said. “It transforms from saying he was selfless, to actually believing that he had no selfish bone in his body.”
A teammate, a friend
Daniel Lau, Huang’s best friend from home, shared a similar story about the kind of teammate he was.
The friends did not get much playing time, but their coach put them in one game when their team was in the lead, Lau said. Lau had three opportunities to score a layup and missed all three shots.
“When Brandon got the ball he immediately turned and passed to me because he knew how embarrassed I was,” Lau said. “He gave me the opportunity to regain my dignity and I made the shot.”
Huang was 6-foot-2 and a “gentle giant,” Lau said.
“He was the type of person that if you knew him, he was probably your friend,” Lau said. “He would always try to include you and make you feel comfortable.”
A hard worker
The energy and work ethic Huang left on the basketball court continued to radiate from him as a student and an employee.
“Brandon had a great impression on me the first time I met him,” instructional support technician for the biological sciences department Alice Hamrick said. Hamrick hired Huang as a dishwasher and stocker in the technician room and he immediately began to assist her as she explained his job duties to him.
“I asked him where he worked previously and he replied that it was his first job,” Hamrick said. “I then asked where he got his work ethic from, and he said from his dad.”
Huang always looked to see what he could do to help and always went the extra step with his duties, she said. Struggling to find the words describing the type of person Huang was, Hamrick remembered a day when she realized how attentive he was to everyone around him.
“I usually wore glasses every day to work,” Hamrick said. “One day I wore contact lenses and he noticed. Nobody else noticed or said anything, but he did. He was very here, very present.”
Huang was also remembered among his professors.
“Out of 100 students, he was one of the few whose name I knew, because he was a strong presence in our department,” biological sciences assistant professor Gita Kolluru said. “He was respectful, calm and a pleasant person.”
Huang would always take the time to stop, give a nod and say “Hi, professor,” he said.
“Somehow with that small greeting he conveyed a lot, and it always stood out to me,” Kolluru said.
Even as Huang is being remembered for his life, investigation into his death continues.
The University Police Department has the lead on the case and the San Luis Obispo Police Department is assisting them, Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said. But until more information is released, Humphrey’s main concern is the students.
“It’s very tragic when someone we know passes,” Humphrey said. “We know how loved Brandon was and how much he has impacted students.”
Not much is known about the circumstances of Huang’s death. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, and results are expected a few days after, but no definitive cause of death has been released as of this time.
Some have speculated however, that alcohol may have been involved. According to an article in The Tribune, Huang may have attended a large house party where alcohol was present prior to his death.
Although Huang could have been at a party, Henson said he thinks the death is more complicated than alcohol poisoning.
“He was never big on partying,” Henson said. “He didn’t want people taking care of him and he was never the one to be out of control.”
There will be a candlelight vigil tonight in the University Union Plaza at 5:45 p.m. followed by hot cocoa in the west wing of Chumash Auditorium to honor Huang’s memory.
Several friends of Huang are expected to speak.
“There is not one thing that anyone has been able to say negative about him,” Henson said. “I’m the person who’s been speaking to the media, but what I have been saying is not just the opinion of myself. It is the opinion of every single person back home whose life he had an impact on.”
Lau said he shares Henson’s opinions on Huang, and hopes students are thinking of the deceased student.
“Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers,” Lau said of Huang. “Try to remember him.”