The beautiful wooded property on which Penn State Behrend sits was gifted to the University in 1948 by Mary Behrend in tribute to her late husband, Ernst, who owned Erie’s Hammermill Paper Company.
Before his death, Ernst and Mary traveled the world, often bringing back trees as living mementos of their trips. While that likely would not happen today, as importing non-native species can have disastrous consequences (see the American Chestnut story on page 18), it was not uncommon then—and it’s because of the Behrends’ journeys that the campus is now home to more than 200 species of notable trees and is recognized as an arboretum by the American Public Gardens Association.
Among the specimens are those made in memory or honor of family, friends, or associates by alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college.
“My mom loved trees, so I thought it would be a good way to remember her,” said Lauren Piera-Jowell ’04, who donated a Wildfire Black Gum tree in honor of her mother, Andrea Piera. It’s planted near a main walkway on campus between Niagara Hall and Kochel Center.
Behrend’s natural environment is stunning—the gardens and flower beds, the variety of habitats from wetlands to forests to grasslands to the gorge—but it’s the trees that knit it all together. In the spring, the flowering varieties steal the show, and in autumn, the brilliant fall colors are a sight to behold.
It’s fitting that those who want to commemorate a loved one or, sometimes, a life event of their own would choose to plant a tree on campus, where it can be a living monument for decades.
Recent campus tree gifts include:
- Fort McNair Chestnut tree near the wooden footbridge beside Turnbull Hall, donated by Tod and Helen Martin and Roman and Kathleen Bielski in memory of Helen’s and Kathleen’s father, John Lewandowski. “Dad loved gardening, trees, and Penn State,” said Helen Martin. “What a fitting memorial for a life well lived.”
- Flower of Kent apple trees—donated by Roger Knacke, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy and former director of the School of Science, with additional funds from Larson Texts—planted near the Otto Behrend Science Building. Flower of Kent trees are often referred to as “Newton” trees; physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton is said to have been lounging under a tree of this variety when he was struck by an apple, which legend holds inspired his theory of gravity.
- Japanese maple, which was installed behind Senat Hall by members of the college’s Maintenance and Operations staff in memory of staff member Mike Devine, who died last year. “He was a great employee and friend,” said Kevin Engle, grounds foreman at Behrend. “He once found a large wild Japanese maple in that area, so we thought it would be fitting to add another down the wood line from the tree he found.”
- Appalachian Red Eastern Redbud tree planted on the east side of the Health and Wellness Center by members of the center staff in memory of Kelley Wilke, a staff member who died in 2019. The tree will bloom for decades near the place where Wilke helped care for Behrend students.
If you’d like to purchase a tree in memory or recognition of someone who has made your world a more beautiful place, email the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at [email protected] or call 814-898-6345.