FROM THE PINE BLUFF COMMERCIAL
For cousins Cornovious “CJ” Branch Jr. and Tara A. Branch, completing an education at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is a celebration of a family tradition. During commencement, these millennials will follow in the footsteps of more than 90 relatives who have graduated from the university. UAPB’s graduation will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
The Branch family tradition began in the early 1920s when Annie Branch Gentry completed her studies at Branch Normal Agricultural Mechanical and Normal College (now UAPB). The tradition produced a lineage of doctors, lawyers, educators, engineers, pastors, entrepreneurs, entertainers and more.
CJ and Tara are thrilled to add their names to this ever-growing list of UAPB scholars. Embracing the ideals of their grandparents the late John Wes Branch and Dorothy Mae Jackson Branch (from Watson, Ark.), these cousins understand the value of a college education and have worked tirelessly to achieve their goals.Their strong work ethic is no surprise, given that their fathers belong to the Fabulous Fifteen — 15 siblings who all matriculated to UAPB from their family farm in Watson. Year after year, a new sibling began the journey from farmer to scholar, and all 15 graduated from the university. Tara’s father, John W. Branch III, was the first of the Fabulous Fifteen to graduate from AM&N/UAPB.
“My parents taught us to nurture and care for one another while we attended school,” he said. “Each sibling knew he was responsible for the success of his brothers and sisters.”
CJ and Tara inherited this nurturing spirit. Born three weeks apart, the pair have been traveling through life together and supporting each other’s goals. As 2010 graduates of Watson Chapel High School, the cousins decided to continue their educational journeys together at UAPB.
“My family’s support has been invaluable,” Tara said. “They are so proud of my accomplishments. It’s a great feeling!”
CJ also credits his family for influencing his college choice.
“It was expected. My family is full of proud alumni of UAPB. They inspired me to work hard and to go after my dreams,” CJ said. “One of those dreams included playing on the 2012 SWAC Champion Golden Lions Football Team.”
Tara said that it is the family’s faith in God that has been most influential for their success.
“I feel so blessed to be a part of the Branch legacy. It wasn’t easy, but our family understands that when you put God first, you have the support to accomplish any goal,” she said.
The Branch family believes in encouraging other students to meet their educational goals. There is an annual scholarship named in honor of CJ and Tara’s great aunt and uncle. The Ezell and Grace Branch Endowment Scholarship is available for non-family members to apply.
CJ Branch is the son of Cornovious and Annette Branch of Pine Bluff. He will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in business and marketing. He is a member of St. John AME Church in Watson.
Tara A. Branch is the daughter of John and Paula Branch of Pine Bluff. She will graduate magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in health, physical education and wellness. She is a member of Family Church in White Hall.