Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 29, 2016

PLANTING MEMORIES Peace Studies Coordinator Phil Keim plants trees with MU students. Photo courtesy of Phil Keim.

Staff, Students Plant Trees to Commemorate Those Lost

Erin Fralick

On April 22, staff and students gathered to watch the ceremonial shoveling of dirt so that both the three new white oak saplings and the memories of those who have passed away can grow on. The planting took place between the Administration Building and Funderburg Library.

Philip Keim, the peace studies coordinator, organized the event. He began with a speech, making sure to thank everyone involved in the process. The speech covered a brief history of Earth Day, such as its origins in 1970, and the conceptual significance of trees all around the world. “In so many traditions and cultures, trees are symbols of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth, union and fertility,” Keim said.

The heart of the speech was when Keim talked about the significance that these three trees would have for the Manchester campus.  “These trees we are planting today carry more significance than some other plants around campus,” he said. “We honor those we’ve lost in the last year, in our own lives, and those we may not have known as well but have impacted our community during their time at Manchester.”

“Just as the tree filters air and holds soil together, the individuals who left us this year brought refreshing perspective to our lives and bound us together in friendship and love,” he continued. “I hope these trees nourish the campus community, transform the landscape in a positive way, and liberate our sorrow by reminding us that life is extraordinarily beautiful, strong, short and fragile.”

Kim then led the people who wished to pray in a short prayer. After “Amen” was muttered by the small crowd, the students contributed to the ceremonial shoveling of mulch. The trees had already been planted to ensure that they would remain healthy and live for a long time.

While these three trees are the newest editions to campus, they were not the first trees planted for Peace Week. Last year, a singular tree was planted by the Jo Young Switzer Center. This tree was also a white oak. However, the first tree was planted more as a memorial for other trees than anything else, as part of an initiative for Sustainable Indiana. Keim explained that the purpose of the tree was “to commemorate our commitment to make amends for the destruction of the planet.” This initiative was brought on by deforestation that plagues the environment. According to Keim, about 20 to 30 people attended the first tree planting.

Other Peace Week activities included the Nabka Museum exhibit on the second floor of the Academic Center, Ultimate Frisbee on April 23, the “Celebrating Diversity” workshop and “Nonviolent Direct Action” workshop, a discussion with John Crossan about “The Life of Jesus” and two VIAs: “Faith in the Age of Ferguson” and “Jesus, God and the Imperial Violence.”