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The Student News Site of Buena Vista University

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Broken branches, broken legacy

Broken+branches%2C+broken+legacy

While walking east of Swope Hall, south of the admissions office, the absence of a particular tree may be noticeable to some. This tree was not simply any old tree; it held special significance to many.

The Tree of Life was planted on October 15, 1969, during the Vietnam Moratorium, a nationwide protest movement.

Dr. William Feis, BVU Professor of History, said, “I knew its importance, that it was was planted … in memory of people who had died and were dying in the battlefields of Vietnam.” He added, “It meant a great deal to the students who put it up in 1969 … These were their classmates; these were their generation that were dying in Vietnam, and they were trying to stop a war, and this was one way peacefully, symbolically, to do that and to commemorate those who had died.”

In January, the tree was cut down due to safety concerns.

BVU Director of Facilities Management, Andrew Taylor, said,“The Tree of Life located on the east side of Swope was a tall spruce tree. Around five to six years ago, the top half to one-third snapped and fell during a windy spring day. The remaining tree was left, and walking by at a close distance, nobody noticed the shortened tree … Fast forward to this past fall, and yet another windy day broke an additional chunk off, and therefore the remaining tree had to be removed out of safety.”

Losing the Tree of Life upset some due to its significance in BVU’s history.

Matthew Helmers, a senior at BVU, said, “While it’s in our nature as Beavers to take down trees, this one was a little bit hard to chew in terms of our history. [Our] institutions are really about preserving a memory, preserving a legacy — that we as a collection of people are working towards some greater goal.”

Plans are in place to plant a new Tree of Life in the near future, maintaining the same plaque. Yet, some are still not thrilled with the knowledge that the plaque commemorating the “memory of those who gave their lives in the Vietnam War” remains lying in front of what was the Tree of Life and now a stump.

“It’s really disappointing and very disheartening and very sad to see the Tree of Life as a stump, said Feis. “I don’t know if I want to go rip it out because that too was placed there by the students and I’m wondering if maybe there’s a way to plant a tree in the same place and maybe use the mulch from the old one in the ground.”

The replanting will provide the current generation of students an opportunity to symbolically connect with those who originally planted the Tree of Life. BVU students have already taken the responsibility of preserving history by placing stones on and around the stump, as well as the plaque.

“My students had placed rocks all around the stump and the marker and there were about a dozen rocks on the stump joining the single rock I placed there yesterday. I was amazed and deeply touched by this. I am so proud of our students! They did a very good thing, and I am forever grateful,” said Feis.

Placing a stone on a stump is a Hebrew tradition.

“It is a symbol that a caring person had visited out of respect to the dead, to mourn and to honor them. The rock I placed there was a way of honoring the Tree of Life now that its long vigil had ended, and to commemorate what it had represented to generations of BVU students who walked by it over the past 55 years,” said Feis.

Even though the Tree of Life’s branches have been broken, the students of Buena Vista University will not allow it to have a broken legacy.

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About the Contributor
Emelia Jacobs
Emelia Jacobs, News Editor
I’m Emelia Jacobs, I am a junior double majoring in strategic public relations and communication studies. I am currently involved in the ag club and BVTV. Last year I graduated from Riverland Community College with my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts and my high school diploma from Alden-Conger Public School. In high school, I was on our yearbook from 9th-12th grade, so I do have some experience in this area. I look forward to gaining much more experience though that could be attributed to my major and being a part of some important stories.

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