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Planting of the Senior Tree on College Green Credit: Lalita Clozel

Last Saturday, Penn planted the roots of a tree and of a new tradition.

For the first time, a tree dedicated to the graduating class was planted on campus, starting a tradition that will continue each year. A tree at the Morris Arboretum will also be dedicated to the graduating class.

Eight hundred and fifty members of the senior class voted from three options proposed by the Morris Arboretum to plant a Legacy Sugar Maple.

The tree that was planted on College Green is now about 10 feet tall and could grow to be 90 feet tall, Morris Arboretum director Paul Myer said. The Maple tree is historically tapped for sap to make syrup, and its leaves will have a “stunning” color in autumn, he added.

“We want to create here an ethic and a tradition that is replicated throughout the campus and indeed throughout the city by thousands and thousands of families,” Myer said at the dedication ceremony.

The tradition was made possible by the idea and gift of 1974 Wharton graduate William Hohns and his wife, Kathlene.

Hohns was inspired to establish the tradition by the beauty of trees and flowers at the Morris Arboretum when he visited last June.

Trees are symbols of strength and growth, Hohns said. He envisions alumni coming back to their tree to watch its progress.

The tradition also ties in well with the “greening of Penn” that is an important part of the Climate Action Plan — Penn’s program to reduce its carbon footprint and improve sustainability — Penn President Amy Gutmann said.

Trees are important to the environment because they consume carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and clean the air, Myer said.

This tradition complements other senior traditions at Penn, such as the Ivy Stone — set every year by the graduating class­ — College senior and Class President Adam Behrens said. “We essentially plant the Ivy Stone, but it stays the same forever, but you plant the tree and it grows forever.”

“This is the first event we’ve done where there’s only been a positive response” from seniors, he said, adding that members of other classes have expressed excitement as well.

College Green was selected as the location because a large tree fell during a storm last year, Business Services spokeswoman Barbara Lea-Kruger said. Future senior trees will be planted elsewhere on campus, such as Penn Park, she added.

The tree is one way the Class of 2011 can leave their mark at Penn, but “they will leave their marks on mankind in ways that we can’t even begin to fathom,” Hohns said.

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