As the years pass and Rensselaer students graduate, a constant reminder of their presence remains deeply rooted on the grounds of the campus. Beginning in 1994, the Class Tree Planting Ceremony was developed in an effort to create a student event that was symbolic and beneficial to the campus.
The ceremony was the brainchild of Thea (Zeak) Jandial ’94, who was serving as president of the Rensselaer Union at the time. Following conversations with friends at different universities who had launched similar student events, Jandial felt that the tree planting would serve to represent the student experience at Rensselaer.
“Many of us establish our core relationships across learning, friends, and experiences that lead us into the next phase of our life. The tree will continue to grow throughout our life, and Rensselaer had a big impact on propelling us forward. We did the first planting for the four class years during GM Week, but the intention was to have the incoming first-year class plant a tree in the fall,” says Jandial.
On Nov. 1, several students representing the classes of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 gathered to participate in the annual ceremony. Four new trees were planted in the Hassan Quad area outside of Sage Labs. In the spring, a plaque will be cemented next to each tree noting the date it was planted and the class year represented. The event was coordinated by the Undergraduate Council.
“The class tree plantings are symbols of the spirit of the class, to be seen by future generations of Rensselaer students,” says Ryan Hawthorne, undergraduate class council president and a member of the Class of 2008. “With the plantings, each class leaves its mark on the RPI landscape both to improve the beauty of our campus, and also to serve as a reminder to students of those who have passed before them.”
Throughout the campus, more than 17 trees ranging from maple, beech, dogwood, and others have been planted by members of the student body. To date, Rensselaer is home to 55 different species of trees.
“For many years, class councils and other student groups have taken a positive role in the beautification and continual development of the campus by working with the grounds department,” says Cameron McLean, activities coordinator for the Rensselaer Union. “The tree planting ceremony is an easy way to get class members to take part in a small campus event, and also serves as a way for students to help keep Rensselaer green for years to come.”
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