Alma College upholds a rich history involving the nature of the local region and the traditions of maintaining a green campus. Alumni and current students know the annual tradition of the pine sapling very well. The history of the campus – rooted like wildlife – gives life to the unique saturnalian mood of life on campus.
On a stroll through campus grounds, one will find the numerous amounts of marked pine trees that dot the local area. The rich tradition of preservation is a significant element of Alma College’s initiative to promote the traditions of the local wildlife.
Annually, new students of the freshman class are given pine saplings as an essential piece of their initiation to their journey on Alma’s campus. Much like the pine itself, all students are presented with a pine to care of as their experiences broaden and grow on campus.
“Much of the tradition stems out of the region that the college was founded upon and those who were instrumental in the founding of the college,” said Ann Hall, Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff.
This tradition originates from a gracious donor and founder of Alma College who instilled the life of nature into the traditions of life on campus. The preservation of the wildlife in the Alma area contributes to freshman tradition.
“During this period, this part of the state was a logging area where there was a tremendous amount of forest. Our founder – Ammi Wright – was a logger. In honor of Wright, the College participates in this tradition,” said Hall.
Alma College was founded in 1886, and many areas of campus give a glimpse into the forested areas that the campus was founded upon. The tradition of the pines stems from the founder’s occupation in the logging industry in Michigan.
From alumni students, current students and to new students, the pine represents the tradition of growth during their experience throughout their undergraduate career at Alma College.
“We have changed the type of pine from time to time. Some years we give out White pines, and other years we give Norfolk pines,” said Hall.
Though the variety of pines that are given change every year, the message that the trees represent stay constant throughout the years. For many students on campus, the tree was a welcoming gift to their new life on campus.
“I thought the symbolic nature of the pine was interesting at the traditions dinner,” said Carly Mckibben (’19).
During the fall semester, first-year students are invited to attend a traditions dinner. The purpose of the tradition’s dinner is to welcome new students onto campus formally. At the latter half of the formal event, pines are distributed.
“I was excited to get my pine last year because a friend of mine on campus was in charge of taking care of the saplings before distributing them to the class,” said Santiago Ribedeneira (’21).
Ribedeneira nurtured his pine for the first fall semester and later sent it down to Indiana, where it will grow into a full pine tree.
“Since I could not keep the tree in the room during winter break, I went down to Indiana and decided to keep the pine there,” said Ribedeneira.
Ribedeneira plans on keeping the pine alive during his return trips to Indiana and hopes that it will continue to grow over the years during his time as an undergraduate and beyond.
The primary significance of giving pine trees to the students is for them to nurture and grow it, just as they are nutured and grow at Alma.