In 1891, an acorn of a live oak grew into the lush creation we now call the Century Tree. As one of the only types of trees to not only survive, but thrive in the College Station weather, the Century Tree has been a staple on A&M’s campus, standing as a symbol of tradition and longevity. Over 100 years later, a good Ag began a new tradition now known as the Century Tree Endowment. Andy Duffie, class of 1978, began gathering acorns from the Century Tree in 2009 to harvest as smaller live oak trees.
“The idea came to me during my class’s 30-year reunion when I saw the tree was laden with acorns,” Duffie said about his collecting and growing process. “I went again in 2010 and 530 acorns sprouted out of the 3,000 harvested.”
The proceeds collected from selling the seedlings who were about a year old is what Duffie funds the President’s Endowed Scholarship. Nearly $107,000 was donated toward the last scholarship awarded and Duffie plans to fund others, including study abroad scholarships, in the future. He also makes it a priority to get to know the scholarship recipients to build friendships along with professional relationships. These trees are bought as gifts for engagements, birthdays, graduations, and even memorials.
“The Aggie word of mouth has been most effective,” said Duffie. “These trees are now in 14 states and fellow Aggies come back to tell the most interesting stories. We’re even conducting an experiment in the panhandle to test trees in cooler climates.”
Duffie says this project is a win-win for all parties, along with being a gratifying horticultural experience. Besides resenting taking the campus squirrels’ food supply, he enjoys the gratification everyone receives partaking in the venture. He carries out this one-man operation as a backyard gig that results in a satisfying experience all around.
“In 2012, a family bought a tree from me and they had also recently adopted a Siberian husky puppy. The pup chewed the tree and the family called me, devastated, for another tree. Instead, I told them they could cut the stem and replant it; the tree is now 10 feet tall with two branches rather than just one,” said Duffie.
Duffie also encourages Aggies to invest in the trees to help spread the Century Tree traditions and take home a memory from campus. He said the custom to walk underneath the tree with a significant other is one of the many sweet sentiments, along with proposals. However, he believes there is no truth behind the story that says whoever walks underneath the tree alone, will remain alone.
A Century Tree seedling is $100 and can be purchased at www. aggiecenturytreeproject.
Bring home or gift to a loved one as part of campus and watch for posts and photos on the Aggie Century Tree Facebook page.