Fund honors life of grad student

A year after the death of Brandon Brei GRD ’06, his parents, professors, friends and fellow students are working to create a permanent memorial for Brei — a research fund that will sponsor student field work in epidemiology, his area of study.

During a research trip to Puerto Rico last year, Brei and four other students were caught in strong currents at Cabeza Chiquita Beach near the town of Fajardo. Brei drowned while rescuing a fellow student who was also caught in the current. His family and friends have established the Brandon Brei Memorial Fund to honor his memory and his bravery while contributing to further investigation into vector-borne diseases.

Epidemiology professor Durland Fish, who advised Brei and was chosen to manage the fund, said the memorial project began when several students last year expressed a desire to send flowers to Brei’s memorial service.

“Rather than have the money spent on that, we requested that they contribute to this fund,” Fish said. “The organization for the fund was a joint [effort] between Brandon’s family and friends and me.”

For the past two weeks, Gryphon’s Pub, located in the basement of the Graduate-Professional Student Center at Yale, has taken donations from students who wish to contribute to the fund. Brei worked at the Pub and was a valued member of its community. Postdoctoral associate Robert Rambo, who hired Brei and has been in charge of organizing the collection at the pub, said workers at the pub are “like a family.” Brei’s death, he said, was “a tremendous loss” for the Yale community at large but especially for the students who worked in GPSCY’s bar with him.

“We’re asking people if they’d like to make a donation as they walk in the door,” said Rambo. “It’s going very well, and we’re on program with what we expected to raise. We expected to raise between $2,000 and $3,000 dollars.”

The GPSCY will match every donation for the fund up to $1,500.

Hannah Gould EPH ’06, a friend of Brei’s who was on the Puerto Rico trip, said the fund is “a wonderful idea.”

“There need to be more people who do the research that Brandon did, especially since he did research into the kinds of questions that there’s not often funding for,” she said.

John Brownstein EPH ’05, who was Brei’s closest friend on campus, said he was grateful the fund would honor Brei’s memory and support the work about which he was so passionate.

“Brandon had real interest in the field,” Brownstein said. “He was doing field research that wasn’t common for someone involved in the Ph.D. microbiology program. He really stood by the idea of going back to the field — because he wanted to combine what happens in the lab with what happens in the world.”

Brownstein said he “had the highest regard for [Brei].”

“He was my closest friend at Yale, and he had a tremendous impact on how I conduct my life,” he said.

Gryphon’s Pub is open Monday through Saturday, from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. The pub will continue to take donations through tomorrow.

A photo of Brandon Brei GRD ’06 sits next to a glass collecting money in his honor. Brei drowned on a research trip in 2003.
Alexander White
A photo of Brandon Brei GRD ’06 sits next to a glass collecting money in his honor. Brei drowned on a research trip in 2003.

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