WHEATON – Wheaton College President Philip Ryken knows the importance of trees in his students' lives.
"We want to celebrate the gift of trees, part of the beauty of creation, which testifies to your beauty and power and grace in our lives," Ryken said, in guiding students and staff members in prayer April 28, prior to the planting of a shagbark hickory tree on the college's campus.
April 28 was Arbor Day. The planting of the tree was part of a ceremony to mark the college's recent designation as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation.
To achieve the title of Tree Campus USA, a college must maintain a tree advisory committee and a campus tree care plan, dedicate resources for its campus tree program, hold an Arbor Day observance and lead a student service-learning project. Fewer than 300 campuses in the U.S. have achieved the designation.
Wheaton College's next goal is to be recognized as an arboretum. Wheaton College’s 113-acre main campus is home to 1,300 trees and more than 100 species.
"We are given the opportunity to showcase God's glory and creation," said Wheaton College Landscape Operations Manager Theresa Kyriazes, who had been working to get the Tree Campus USA recognition for the college. ''We're stewards of what he created for us to enjoy."
Ray Lewis, associate professor of biology at Wheaton College, is proud of the designation.
"It recognizes our care for trees on campus," Lewis said. "I do projects with the trees with my class. I have a economic botany class, where we're looking at all kinds of plants that are useful for us."
Wheaton College junior Charles Nystrom, a biology major, put forth the suggestion that the college plant a shagbark hickory tree. He is part of Wheaton College's Campus Tree Committee.
"I'm from Arkansas, and there's a lot of hickories in my front yard," said Nystrom, who helped in planting the tree. "So it's like a little piece of home, kind of. We don't have any nut trees on campus, so it will be really appreciated by students and by wildlife as well."