Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, October 11, 2018

President's Tree returns to Observatory Hill

Aaron Bird Bear, assistant dean for student diversity programs in the UW School of Education, makes an offering of tobacco leaves during a President’s Oak planting ceremony. Aaron Bird Bear, assistant dean for student diversity programs in the UW School of Education, makes an offering of tobacco leaves during a President’s Oak planting ceremony. BRYCE RICHTER

The La Follette School experienced a rebirth of sorts Wednesday. A graft from the long-standing, much-beloved President’s Oak was planted near Washburn Observatory during a ceremony celebrating both the future and the past.

The original President’s Oak lived for more than 300 years old just outside the La Follette School, which originally housed several university presidents – hence, its name. Before it had to be taken down in 2015, UW–Madison alumnus Michael Yanny took a small branch from it and grafted it with another bur oak.

Wednesday’s planting ceremony drew people from across campus and the community, including Chancellor Becky Blank.

“As we plant this new tree, I would love to think of it as a symbol of both the past history of this university and all the people who passed under it, but also as a symbol of the future and the connection between our past and our future as we plant both an old tree and a new tree at the same time,” she said.

Majorie Matthews of the La Follette School attended Wednesday’s the ceremony despite the less-than-ideal weather. “Because the tree has been our neighbor for 164 years, the La Follette School was gifted with a ‘cookie’ – a small cutting from the original President’s Tree,” she said.

More information about the new tree and the old tree is online along with this timeline.