University News

WIU: Tree Campus USA Designation

February 1, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- "Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." - Warren Buffett.

For the first time in its 114-year history, Western Illinois University has been designated a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The national Tree Campus USA program was created in 2008 to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Toyota helped launch the program and continues its financial support.

"Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment," said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. "Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for all of us."

According to Tree Campus USA, Western achieved the title by meeting the organization's five standards: maintaining a tree advisory committee, having a campus tree care plan, dedicating annual expenditures toward trees, hosting an Arbor Day observance and sponsoring student service-learning projects.

"We are excited about achieving the designation as a Tree Campus USA. We take great pride in maintaining our beautiful campus, and one of our campus planning priorities is to continue to focus on campus beautification. This is just a prime example of what an institution like Western can do in being strategic in making sure that we become one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation," said WIU President Jack Thomas. "I extend my appreciation to Tara Beal and the tree advisory committee for making this designation possible, and to landscape maintenance and facilities management for their continued efforts."

Western's landscape maintenance department, within facilities management, maintains more than 2,800 trees on the Macomb campus. Each fall, as part of the We Care event, Western's volunteer campus beautification program, trees are planted and/or mulching is completed around existing trees, and each spring, as part of Arbor Day, Forestry Instructor Paul Blome and WIU urban forestry management students lead tree plantings with elementary schools in western Illinois, a tradition that was started in 1993 by WIU Forestry Professor Tom Green. In addition, each spring semester, two trees are planted on WIU's Macomb campus to honor WIU employees and students who have passed away. A complete tree inventory for the Macomb campus can be found at

Recently, Western's Horn Field Campus received an Arbor Day Foundation grant to become a model for local reforestation initiatives, which will allow WIU students to gain hands-on experience in reforestation.

According to WIU English Professor Emeritus and Historian John Hallwas, the WIU campus was designed by landscape architect Thomas Hawkes of Chicago, and in 1903-1905 noted horticulturalist John Van Ness Standish selected and supervised the planting of approximately 500 trees.

Western's former trustee John Keefer, who was in charge of the Grounds Committee, created Lake Ruth during the 1908-1909 academic year and planted trees around the campus landmark. Student groups contributed to that effort as well as trees became a noted expression of community at the school, and Arbor Day events, headed by President Alfred Bayliss, began at that time. But the foremost early figure focused on trees was Samuel Hursh, Western's first English teacher. In 1908, he created a wooded area, later called "Hursh Woods," bordering Murray Street. His project included the planting of some 600 trees. Hursh was also the first resident to celebrate and develop for recreation an established wooded area, the Ravine, located directly east Sherman Hall. A photograph-filled booklet, "Trees of the Campus," by biologists Harry Waggoner and Mary Bennett, was published in 1922 to celebrate the campus and "illustrate the decorative value of trees." In 1956, a study of WIU trees noted 120 species on campus.

The Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota have helped campuses throughout the country plant hundreds of thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested $23 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available at

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