IPF helps the MSU community memorialize its people and history

Photo of commemorative plaque on tree near Cowles House

June 18, 2019

For more than 150 years, MSU has given campus and community members the opportunity to celebrate the lives of those dear to them via the Commemorative Tree and Bench Program.

The first commemorative tree, an eastern white pine, was planted on May 31, 1863 by then President, Theophilus Abbot and his wife, Sarah, to celebrate the birth of their daughter Mary. Twenty years later Mary was wed under the shade of the same tree.

IPF, in all its incarnations, has played an integral part in this program, planting 180 commemorative trees, and installing 30 commemorative benches around campus.

Establishing a commemorative tree or bench involves staff from multiple departments, including IPF Administration; Planning, Design and Construction; and Landscape Services. After the installation is complete, the donor is typically involved in the dedication by hanging the memorial label.

“A commemorative tree or bench is initiated by the request of the donor,” said Steve Troost, campus planner. “A contribution to the Campus Beautification Fund is required, with a minimum of $3,000 for a tree and $10,000 for a bench.”

Labels on trees and benches identify the person being commemorated along with a short sentiment.

Tree labels also identify the planting date and the tree species in both common and scientific names. This ensures that the tree becomes an official part of the campus arboretum, thus also serving as a teaching resource.

Staff from the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and Campus Arboretum created an interactive map of currently recorded campus trees. The Campus Tree Map includes identifying information about the specimens, including information on commemorative plantings.

“Trees have environmental and health benefits, while benches foster community by providing a place to rest and connect with friends,” Troost said. “They also add to the physical beauty of the university and encourage exploration of the campus.”