University wins tree award for seventh consecutive year


Arron Casper / Hilltop Views

Live Oak, which is a Quercus fusiformis, near the edge of campus. Other common names for this species are escarpment live oak, plateau live oak and Texas live oak. These trees are well suited for this region.

With centuries-old live oaks, towering cypress trees and forty other species of trees, St. Edward’s University was awarded the Tree Campus Higher Education award by the Arbor Day Foundation for the seventh consecutive year.

The Arbor Day Foundation looks for schools with a proven track record of caring for their trees and educating others about trees.

“It is more accurate to think of the award as an accreditation,” Roy Johnson, arborist and grounds lead at St. Edward’s University, said. “It starts with presenting [to] them the Campus Tree Care Plan in all its detail. Information includes things like how many trees were removed that year, how many trees planted, how many trees pruned, the amount of money invested in caring for and installing trees. We also keep them updated on any amendments that may be made to the Campus Tree Care Plan.”

Another requirement is that schools must hold an educational event on trees every semester.

“We are more than happy to help educate others on trees and their importance, and it allows us to keep receiving the award,” Johnson said.

Tree Campus Higher Education was founded in 2008 and provides a framework for colleges and universities to grow their community forests, achieve national recognition and create a campus their students and staff are proud of.

“I take pride in the fact that we have continued to make the effort, despite unseen forces such as a global pandemic or a record freezing winter storm attempting to foil our plans,” Johnson said. “I feel the award is a tangible symbol to illustrate our commitment to caring for our campus trees.”

One of the most striking and important trees on campus is Sorin Oak. Named after the founder of St. Edward’s University, it is estimated to be between 250-300 years old. 

The Sorin Oak, named after the founder of St. Edward’s University, is estimated to be between 250-300 years old. (Arron Casper / Hilltop Views)

“Another important tree is a commemorative tree for a great person,” Johnsons said. “There’s a Bur Oak right by the north entrance of Holy Cross with a marker for the great Brother Daniel Lynch, who was instrumental with his involvement in many of our campus trees, as well as others in Central Texas, including the historical Treaty Oak.”

With the idea in mind that coffee grounds have many benefits for plants, and realizing that Jo’s Coffee offered an endless supply on campus, Johnson started a project called Grounds for Grounds that turns used coffee grounds into compost for the plants. 

“Students for Sustainability now oversees this program and has begun talks with Munday Library to expand the program as the library is exploring options to start providing coffee.” Ethan Tobias, students for sustainability president said. “In the past two years we’ve seen so much growth in membership for Students for Sustainability. A strong tell that this issue is something that the student body greatly cares about.”

The Office of Sustainability has encountered a few setbacks in the past two years due to COVID-19 and staffing changes, and many plans had to be put on hold. 

“But we are bouncing back,” Tobias said. “We are now under the leadership of Jim Morris, AVP of university operations & sustainability coordinator, through this new structure we will expand on the solid foundation that has been set for us and reach for a more sustainable hilltop.”

Students for Sustainability will be hosting an Earth Day Fair on April 22 from 11-2 p.m. on the Ragsdale and St. Andre Lawn. 

To learn more about what St. Edward’s University is doing to make the Hilltop more sustainable, follow @seu_sustainability on Instagram. To get more involved with sustainability on campus follow @students_for_sustainabilty.