The Baker Orange

Honorary tree plantings evoke emotion

Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

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Baker University received the Tree Campus USA title for the fourth year in a row. To honor the distinction six new trees were planted around campus on April 25. Each tree was in honor of a retiring faculty member.

The type of tree and where it was placed on campus was selected based on the individual receiving the honor.

Tree planting honorees

Pat Long (cherrybark oak)

Peggy Harris (Norway spruce)

Ruth Sarna (flowering magnolia)

Ira DeSpain (overcup oak)

Cal Cink (pecan)

Ray James (bald cypress)

Minister to the University Ira DeSpain was excited about his tree being an oak, but was also highly moved because of its placement.

“Not only is it by the chapel,” DeSpain said, “but it is also near the tree that is dedicated to Kristen Cooper, a former student who passed while she was here. It is an honor to have my tree share that space with her.”

DeSpain said having a tree planted in his honor was a humbling experience.

“I absolutely love it,” DeSpain said. “I am so honored and humbled to know I will be a part of campus. Sixty years from now, my grandchildren may get to see the plaque in my honor and learn about my time at Baker.”

Nurse emeritus Ruth Sarna retired following the fall semester and also feels honored to be selected.

“I was very shocked when I heard, but it really is an honor and very touching for me,” Sarna said.

Sarna also loved her tree and its placement.

“The magnolia blossoms are beautiful and are a symbol of life,” Sarna said.

Sarna’s magnolia can be found just outside of the Student Health and Counseling Center.

The experience evoked both tears and laughter from those gathered.

“I’ll admit, I was touched and teary eyed,” Sarna said.

Peggy Harris, vice president and dean of the School of Education, made nearly everyone present laugh during her tree planting. The small evergreen tree planted near Constant Hall seemed to be too much for her to resist.

“I am going to have to come back and decorate it for Christmas,” Harris said.

Everyone who attended took part in the ceremony in some way, from University President Pat Long to attending students. Spectators aided in shoveling in the dirt around the saplings and gathered together to take group photos for each tree and retiree.

“It was an emotional event,” DeSpain said. “I felt very humbled to be among those chosen for the honor.”

Though an honor, the tree plantings were also a little bittersweet.

“Saying goodbye is hard,” DeSpain said. “So, it’s nice to leave something behind.”