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Branching Out

As alumni stroll past Rollins Chapel this month, many will pause to take in the spectacular annual display of the bright green yellowwood tree, drooping with vanilla-scented blossoms and spreading welcome shade across the lawn. Mollie's Tree, as it is known, was planted by the class of 1950 nearly sixteen years ago in honor of Mollie Hughes. Hughes was a naturalist and author of Forever Green, a guide to campus trees published by the class as its 50th-reunion project. That special yellowwood is part of a much larger history: the Class of 1950 Tree Planting Program.

Bob Thebodo, grounds supervisor and former tree warden, says the program got its start in the 1960s after severe storm damage and the onslaught of Dutch elm disease devastated many of the trees on campus. "The class of 1950 stepped forward and adopted a large-scale planting program, with a focus on tree replacement," says Thebodo. "As a result, Dartmouth dedicated about ten new trees every year. Gradually, the demand for planting trees began to exceed the number of placement sites. Now, rather than paying for simply the cost of a tree, the fund subsidizes the care of each tree for fifteen years."

Thebodo says that water, feeding, pruning, and maintenance can cost approximately $2,500 per tree over that time. Construction, salt, foot traffic, insect infestations, falling ice, and other factors work against the trees' survival.

The katsura tree located to the west of Ripley Hall, the Kentucky coffee tree (one of only three on campus) in front of Sanborn House, and several elms on the Green are also courtesy of the class of 1950. All of the maples at the south end of the Green were among the first to be planted as part of the project.

"There's a very strong emotional bond to the Dartmouth campus for alumni," says Thebodo, "and the trees are a part of that. I've worked very closely with the class of 1950 volunteers over the years. They love this place."

At its 50th reunion, the class officially bequeathed its tree-planting program to the class of 2000, which has pledged to plant a new tree each spring. At its 5th reunion this month, the younger class will offer a Forever Green Tree Walk for their classmates, led by Thebodo.

"It's been a very rewarding project for those who have been involved with it," says Jay Cormier '00, reunion treasurer. "We want to keep the campus in the same green state that we enjoyed, and that means keeping the tree life there. Each tree has a special meaning. Some are dedicated in memory of individuals, and some to ideas. The connection between the two classes is strengthened by the program. It was very important to their class and it's been a distinct honor to carry it on. They've helped us learn how to give back to the College and mentored us in our efforts."

By DIANA LAWRENCE

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Last Updated: 5/30/08