Tribute Trees on Campus

Hastings College has placed an emphasis on the need for trees on campus from the very beginning. After breaking ground for McCormick Hall in 1882, community members planted 226 trees on the HC campus. Then the HC Arboretum was formally recognized by the State of Nebraska in 1997. Today, the college continues to encourage more planting through a nursery and tribute trees.

A tribute tree is a tree planted in memory of someone who has passed away. The process of adding trees to campus is not as simple as one would expect. Emeritus Professor of Teacher Education and arboretum volunteer, Dr. Will Locke; Maintenance Manager of Hastings College and arboretum curator, Paul Dooley and Associate Vice President of External Relations, Matt Fong take each application individually. After receiving an application for another tribute tree, they will walk around campus thinking of how to fulfill the donor’s desires.

“In our minds will be the desires of the family or alumns or students or friends, and we’ll pick. We’ll make sure the location is okay, and that takes some thought,” Locke said.

After the location is chosen, they must decide what type of tree to plant. In some cases, a certain species of tree is chosen for the colors that it turns in the fall. Other times, it is important to avoid one type of tree for safety reasons, such as a walnut tree by a sidewalk.

“Maybe we have lots of great, big shade trees and great big Colorado blue spruces,” Locke said. “Now we need something that blossoms, and so that is how we decide.”

While tribute trees have been added to campus since 1934, the majority of them have been planted only since 2007. In the last 12 years as a volunteer, Locke has been pushing for more planting. This was supported by the creation of a nursery in 2011. HC is home to about 1,100 trees, with most of the last 300 planted in the last 10 years coming from the nursery on campus. Volunteers care for the trees in the nursery for about three years, which is the prime age for transplanting.

Some of the trees on campus are now in danger of dying, whether it is through construction, damage or disease. When there are too many of one kind of tree and a disease strikes, it can wipe out all of them. Ash trees are the latest to suffer from disease with the emerald ash borer spreading closer to campus. It has slowly spread throughout the country and is now in Omaha and Lincoln. While campus will lose some trees as old as 90 years due to the disease, the loss of current trees will allow the expansion of a larger variety and new landscaping thanks to tribute trees.