Oklahoma Baptist University will host a special tree planting ceremony Tuesday, April 25, in advance of Arbor Day 2017. The event will take place on the south lawn of Raley Chapel at 11 a.m. on OBU’s campus in Shawnee. As the central focus of the event, OBU President David W. Whitlock and the Campus Tree Advisory Committee will plant a seedling of an American elm from the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Arbor Day was first celebrated in the United States in Nebraska City, Nebraska. It was founded by J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor and President Grover Cleveland’s secretary of agriculture, and the first Arbor Day was observed April 10, 1872. Arbor Day is now celebrated nationally on the final Friday of April, when people are encouraged to plant and care for trees.
The ceremony and tree planting was organized by the Campus Tree Advisory Committee, which was formed to assist OBU in its efforts to become an accredited Arboretum and to be recognized as a Tree Campus USA. These achievements are part of the goals set forth in “OBU 2020,” a university-wide strategic plan enacted in 2010. The OBU Arboretum currently contains 131 different species of trees, with plans to continue adding to the diversity of trees on campus.
The committee is composed of staff from facilities management, a faculty member, a member of the community and a student representative. The committee is working together with OBU facilities staff to finalize the Arboretum plan, to establish a policy for the campus collection of trees, and to provide both educational opportunities for the public and service learning projects for students.
Current committee members include Dr. John McWilliams, faculty representative; Tom Terry, community member; Alexa Tininenko, student representative; George Haines, director of facilities management; Berry Nichols, grounds and athletic fields supervisor; Lisa Hair, groundskeeper – gardener; and Stacey Foster, committee secretary.
The university will plant the Survivor Tree seedling six days after the 22nd anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. On April 19, 1995, a truck-bomb explosion outside the building left 168 people dead and hundreds more injured. In the wake of that blast, a lone American elm, later known as the “Survivor Tree,” continued to grow at the blast site, a testimony to the resiliency of those who survived, those who responded and those who will forever remember that day.
Each year, the facilities and grounds crew at the OKC National Memorial provides hundreds of seeds for the project, growing them in nurseries all around Oklahoma. The resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Today, thousands of Survivor Trees are growing in public and private places all over the United States.