A Tried and "Treed" Tradition

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When faculty retire from Virginia Wesleyan, it is tradition for them to choose a tree to be planted in the Wilson Arboretum.

By Laynee H. Timlin | June 27, 2012

Trees are the best monuments that a man can erect to his own memory. – Lord Orrery

Bobbie Adams selected a sycamore tree to commemorate her tenure at VWC.

You would expect a College selected for`the Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges for 2013 to plant trees. According to College archivist, Dr. Stephen Mansfield, it was the spring of 1995 when members of the campus community gathered to plant the first dozen trees in the Wilson Arboretum on campus. The Arboretum was established by the VWC classes of 1986 and 1995 to honor the memory of Dr. William M. Wilson, dean of the College from 1971 to 1994. Mansfield’s book, Wisdom Lights the Way: Virginia Wesleyan College’s First Half Century, documents the tradition of planting trees to recognize retiring faculty that began in May 1997 when Gordon A. Magnuson, English professor and William R. Shealy, religious studies professor, selected a weeping willow and a Japanese maple for inclusion in the Wilson Arboretum.

Three retiring members of the faculty/staff were honored at the end of the 2012 spring semester for their service to the College.  

Twenty-three of Bobbie Adams 35 years as a college registrar have been at Virginia Wesleyan. She has many fond memories of her time on campus including buying the very first PC for the Registrar's Office, outlining and writing first few dozen web pages for the Registrar's Office in HTML, going to the library to pick up faxes before there was a fax machine in the office and attending conferences and bringing wonderful ideas back for using technology and more efficient procedures and processes.

“There are so many things I will always remember, from naming MARSIS (Marlins Student Information System) to the 9,000 transfer evaluations, and 23 academic catalogs I’ve been responsible for editing,” reflects Adams.

“I chose an existing sycamore tree in the arboretum. I had a couple giant Sycamore trees in our front yard where I grew up in Roanoke and my girlfriends and I played with the fruit clusters or hanging balls every year. Then we would write on the inside of the peeling bark pretending it was papyrus. All in all, seeing the sycamore tree brought back many happy memories of carefree summer days playing with friends.”

David Clayton has been at Virginia Wesleyan for 39 years as director of the choral program, professor of music, and as the humanities division chair for one term. His fondest memories include seeing the growth and development of his students through their four years, watching the "light bulb" light up when a concept was grasped, and several concerts with Wesleyan Singers where everything clicked and "magic" happened. He recalls performances at Walt Disney World, National Cathedral and St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC, conducting the Mozart Requiem and Messiah performances with students, faculty, staff and orchestra, and his final concert with the Choir, Wesleyan Singers, and 17 "all star" alumni singers.

Dr. David Clayton waters his newly planted American Yellowood in the Wilson Arboretum.“Wesleyan was a place where ideas and dreams could become reality without an inordinate amount of red tape,” reminisces Clayton. “The church music summer conference and the Center for Sacred Music are two examples. Annual performance tours with the Wesleyan Singers were always rewarding performance and learning experiences.  Faculty always had a great deal of personal freedom to plan and create.”

He selected the Cladastris lutea (American Yellowwood) as the tree to be planted in his memory because it's an American native tree suited to our southern climate, yet seldom planted. When it reaches maturity it will have panicles of fragrant white flowers in late spring. His colleagues on campus will miss his emails announcing the arrival of Beefsteak, SanMarzano, and Brandywine tomatoes for the taking right outside his office near FA16.

 “Folks looking for me after retirement are apt to find me in my garden (if I'm in town),” he says.

Jan Pace was hired as a reference librarian in July 1991and became VWC’s library director in December 1999. Her fondest memories of her time at VWC are personal.

“My sons practically grew up on the Virginia Wesleyan campus,” says Pace, “volunteering here many summers at the physical plant and at the library. They both attended school here, so I’m also a proud VWC mom.”

The tree that she selected was a dogwood.  

“My boys grew up in the Thoroughgood neighborhood of Virginia Beach where dogwoods grace nearly every yard. The dogwood reminds me of my sons’ wonderful growing-up time.”

Pace has plans to travel, especially to the western U.S. to visit family, and to play golf, tennis and bike ride. She also says that a new digital piano at home has been calling her name.