WHEN I WAS A MEMBER OF THE UNIVERSITY'S FIRST GRADUATING CLASS in 1964 we tried to think of an appropriate gift to our university. It seemed a gift of trees, to help landscape the new campus, would be a very good idea: they would last a long time and they were inexpensive. So, during our convocation we planted six London Plane trees along one of the roads on campus. We then all went our separate ways and probably none of us gave the trees much more thought.
At least not until a few years ago, when the class of ’64 had a reunion. It was a nostalgic time for us all, and in this spirit we decided that we would go see how our trees were doing. So we trundled along to the location we remembered. We could find no trees. It seemed to us all that the trees had been removed to make way for construction. No record, no acknowledgment. It was the one sour note in what was a wonderful weekend.
When I became president of the UVic Alumni Association, I decided that the university had to right this wrong. The trees had to be replaced with appropriate recognition to the class of ’64, and possibly the dedication of a campus tree for each of Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. I went to various university officials and they responded as I knew they would—the university would fix the wrong and provide an appropriate ceremony to recognize the original gift.
But a subsequent meeting with university representatives began rather badly for me. The director of facilities reported that the grad class’ recollection of the location for the trees was somewhat faulty—no doubt the product of the passage of time and a radical change in the appearance of the campus since 1964! The trees still stood, in the meridian of Finnerty Road, between the Student Union Building and the UVic Bookstore.
So our grad class had been needlessly upset. I tried to gain some ground by pointing out that no one could safely get near them, and in any event there was no acknowledgment of the grad class gift.
But this story has a very happy ending. Something even better has emerged from our discussions with the university.
I am delighted to report that the “University of Victoria Alumni Garry Oak Meadow” will be officially dedicated to the many thousands of graduates of our university. We will also use the site to formally and permanently recognize our distinguished alumni. You may be familiar with the site of the meadow. It’s near the south entrance to campus, next to Finnerty Gardens, and facing Cedar Hill X Road. For some time now, university staff and students have been doing a wonderful job nurturing the meadow and bringing it back to its natural state.
The alumni association’s directors are ecstatic about this outcome. We want to extend our thanks to everyone involved in turning my grad class’ faulty memory into a wonderful tribute to all UVic alumni.
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