Practically every student at the University of Memphis over the past half century has crossed paths with Stan Bronson Jr., one of the athletic department’s most dedicated and durable supporters.
Stan Bronson Jr. is an iconic figure around the University of Memphis. The community will have the opportunity to help him celebrate his 84th birthday next week.
(Photo: Courtesy of Memphis Athletics Communications)
For 54 years, Bronson has faithfully served as a batboy at the university’s baseball games, as well as volunteering at volleyball and women’s basketball games, greeting fans, passing out schedules and posters, and regularly attending football practices at South Campus.
And now the university is stepping up to support a man whose unwavering commitment has made him a member of the Tiger family.
On Thursday, July 19, the community will host an 84th birthday party for Bronson at his home, Wesley Highland Towers, 366 S. Highland St., which will double as a fundraiser for Bronson, who’s had developmental and physical challenges since birth.
Katherine Howard, wife of Bronson’s late cousin, is his legal guardian. Bronson regularly spent weekends, vacations and holidays with the Howards.
According to Howard, Bronson’s mother was one of Memphis’ first registered nurses, and accordingly sought out the best care possible for her son. She rented out the neighboring house and hired a teacher with expertise in special needs children to live next door and care for Bronson.
“At that time, Stan couldn’t even eat,” Howard said. “He didn’t know how to chew and do any of the basics. So he was limited, but this woman was very good, and his mother was excellent.”
Howard said Bronson’s father was self-employed “and therefore he did not put money into social security because at that time it was just starting,” she said. “Because of that, Stan doesn’t have any social security. We’ve tried through the years to get it, but so far we have not been successful.”
She said Bronson has no form of health insurance or disability coverage, although family and friends continue to seek a qualifying program for him. The small trust fund left to him by his family is dwindling at the same time his physical independence is waning.
The hope is that the well-publicized party Thursday will bring in donations from Tigers fans and the community at large to help a man whose faithful service has even earned him the title of Most Durable Batboy in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“He’s such a staunch supporter of the university and is willing to do as much as he possibly can,” said Beverly Dunn, a University of Memphis fan who has known Bronson since the mid-1980s. “Rain or shine he will walk to the games. He has a medal that was given to him by the university, and he’s never without it. Every student who’s passed through there for the past 50 years remembers Stan. … When he’s introduced at home games, the opponents even stand up and applaud for him. He is absolutely an icon.”
Dunn contacted Guinness and led the charge to have Bronson recognized as a world record-holder. It was through that experience that her friendship with Bronson grew.
“Every student who’s passed through there for the past 50 years remembers Stan. ... He is absolutely an icon.”
U of M fan and longtime Bronson friend
The Most Durable Bat Boy first approached the University of Memphis almost 54 years ago asking how he could be of service.
“And he’s been doing it ever since; it was all his idea,” Dunn said.
Although he’s never been paid for his work, he receives unlimited free meals on campus, and as part of the university family, Bronson attends functions such as the athletic teams’ annual banquets.
Until last year, Bronson lived in his own home, but after numerous major repairs to the aging property and dwindling funds, Howard’s family decided he needed a new home, and Bronson moved to Wesley Highland Towers in the University of Memphis neighborhood.
“One of the reasons he liked it so well right at the beginning was because he could look out his window and see the campus,” Howard said. “It’s very well-placed for him.”
Although Bronson has a birthday party each year, which usually includes numerous guests from the university’s athletic department, this year’s event, open to the public, will serve as a fundraiser for Bronson’s health care needs.
“That will make such a difference to him,” Howard said. “Stan’s temperament is so good, and he’s so well liked by everybody. And that’s because he’s very polite and considerate of other people. He’s just a great guy.”
Donations are also being accepted through PayPal, and the link can be found here on the Stan Bronson Fundraiser Facebook page.
Donations will be managed by Sun Trust Bank and Bronson’s conservator. Long term after Bronson’s passing, the university and his family plan to put all continued donated monies into a scholarship fund to assist a student with physical or developmental disabilities.