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New grove of trees marks legacy of international members of the Class of 2017

The May 18 tree-planting event is an extension of the Elon tradition of handing out oak saplings to new graduates.  

International members of the Class of 2017 gathered near Harden Clubhouse on May 18 to plant oak saplings. 

Thursday marked the beginning of a new legacy for Elon's international students that extends beyond their academic and career accomplishments. 

Building upon the long-standing tradition of handing Elon's newest graduates oak saplings, this year graduating students from other countries planted their saplings in what will become a new grove of trees on the university's South Campus. International students are unable to take their saplings back to their home countries due to customs restrictions, and have missed out on planting their own tree and watching it grow. 

Since the international students will not be able to take the oak saplings they receive at commencement back to their home countries because of customs restrictions, they were given the opportunity to plant them on campus. Francois Masuka, director of international student and faculty scholar services, is seen here working with a student to plant a tree. 

​Woody Pelton, dean of global education, worked with Physical Plant Director Robert Buchholz to develop the idea, which marries the university's appreciation for its international students with the desire to plant more trees on campus and around Alamance County. 

"This allows our international students to know that they have trees on campus as a legacy of the time they have spent here at Elon," Pelton said. 

Nine of the 30 international students who are graduating at Saturday's commencement were joined by family, faculty and staff near Harden Clubhouse on South Campus to plant the oak saplings. The young trees were added next to the existing wooded area southeast of the clubhouse in a grassy area beyond the parking lot. 

"Throughout your time here, each of you in your own way has truly changed the fabric of Elon," said Kristen Aquilino, assistant director for global student engagement, to the students gathered on the grassy expanse. 

Tom Flood, director of landscaping and grounds, said the idea is to plant the saplings to extend the wooded area toward the parking lot, with the area able to accommodate about 200 saplings.

​The tradition of handing out oak saplings to new graduates dates back to 1991 and the commencement address delivered by Furman Moseley '56. Moseley spoke at that commencement about his career in the timber industry, and presented each graduate with a redwood sapling.

The following year, then-President J. Fred Young started the tradition of handing each new graduate an oak sapling in recognition of the Hebrew origin of the school's name. President Leo M. Lambert added to the tradition by giving each first-year student an acorn at New Student Convocation to symbolize the beginning of their journey at Elon. 

Rowland Young, a senior from Farnham, which is a town outside of London in the United Kingdom, called the chance to plant an oak sapling on Elon's campus "a privilege."

"We're able to gather on a beautiful day and bring all the international students together," Young said. "This was a great way for us to bond as we complete our time at Elon."

Owen Covington,
5/18/2017 3:20 PM