Branwen Smith-King, Track Coach and Assistant Director of Tufts Athletics, leaves the University after 35 years.
Writes TuftsNow Sports Information Director Paul Sweeney.
Some of her former student-athletes gathered to honor their coach and mentor.
They shared stories about why Bran, as she is affectionately known, was so important in their lives. One related how Bran’s positive encouragement had stayed with her and helped her fight cancer later in life. Another spoke of how Bran had privately guided her through college while her family was falling apart due to an abusive situation at home.
“Branwen was able to be that support system for all of her student-athletes,” said Jan Brown, J85, G89, a member of Smith-King’s first women’s track and field team who arranged the get-together. “Besides her commitment to making sure we succeeded athletically, it was her personal relationships with us that mattered most. At times it didn’t even matter if you stepped on the field or ran a race. She just wanted to make sure that the person was OK.”
Smith-King found her calling at Tufts. Hired in 1982, she became one of the most influential women in the history of Tufts Athletics, mentoring hundreds of student-athletes as the head coach of women’s cross-country and track and field teams for 18 years and as assistant director of Tufts Athletics since 2000.
Born and raised in Bermuda, Smith-King decided to return home this spring, accepting a position as executive director of the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, which provides an alternative learning experience for young Bermudians on board the floating classroom Spirit of Bermuda.
“Bran is a warm and caring human being who is a valued and respected colleague and a good friend to so many of us at Tufts,” said Bill Gehling, A74, G79, A05P, director of athletics emeritus who worked with Smith-King for more than 30 years. “She brought compassion, integrity, toughness and thoughtfulness to everything she did.”
By the time she arrived at Tufts at age 26, Smith-King already had extraordinary experiences to draw upon as a coach. She had been a member of the Bermuda National Track and Field Team and was the first in her country to win a gold medal at an international competition—in the long jump at the CARIFTA Games in Barbados in 1973. She held Bermuda records in the shot put, pentathlon discus, long jump and 100 meters. (Her daughter, Arantxa, who competed for Stanford, eclipsed her mother’s long-jump record.)