Founder’s Day tree recognizes contributions to U.Va. community

Prof. Jim Murray to be honored at planting ceremony

nsprattmemorialtreecourtesyuniversityofvirginia

Murray said the tradition of associating particular trees with special persons goes back to the foundation of the University, with the oldest association being James Monroe and the Monroe Walnut.

Courtesy University of Virginia

Since 1970, the University has planted a tree each year on Founder’s Day to honor an individual who has made significant contributions to the community. This year’s recipient is Professor Emeritus in Biology Jim Murray.

The University’s Arboretum and Landscape Committee takes nominations for the honoree, evaluates the nominations and ultimately recommends an individual, or short of list of individuals, to University President Teresa Sullivan for selection.

Worthy Martin, chair of the Arboretum and Landscape Committee, said the committee is also in charge of recommending the tree species and location.

“If the individual has had a particular impact on a given district of the Grounds, then that is part of the consideration of the location,” Martin said in an email statement. “However, there is a Master Plan on tree planting and the specific location and species is selected … from that Master Plan.”

University Landscape Architect Mary Hughes said the committee looks at a broad range of factors when determining the recipient.

“They look for people who have made a really great lifelong contribution to U.Va., but also because the nature of the honor is the planting of a tree, we look for somebody who has had an interest in University landscape and Grounds as a second qualification,” Hughes said.

Murray formerly served as chair of the Arboretum and Landscape Committee.

“I am both surprised and delighted,” Murray said in an email statement. “I hope that this yearly ritual encourages the community to cherish and enjoy the remarkable collection of trees that we are privileged to share on the Grounds.”

Martin said Murray has played an important role in developing the University’s landscape.

“He was the chair … during several crucial periods of development of the Grounds and has been committed to having a vibrant and engaging landscape in all areas of the Grounds for more than 30 years,” Martin said.

Holding the ceremony on Founder’s Day is a suitable way to honor the University’s founder Thomas Jefferson, Hughes said.

“Jefferson himself was a great lover of gardens and plants,” Hughes said. “It seemed like an appropriate one of many ways to honor his tradition.”

Murray said the tradition of associating particular trees with special persons goes back to the foundation of the University, with the oldest association being James Monroe and the Monroe Walnut.

The Founder’s Day tree planting ceremony will be at 11:15 a.m. on April 13 in front of Cocke Hall.

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