The University of Southern Mississippi’s Tree Management Task Force has opened a tree- naming contest for the last surviving live oak tree on the Hattiesburg campus.
“The university is known for having four 100-year old live oak trees, but three were taken away in the 2013 tornado,” said Superintendent of Campus Landscaping Loren Erickson.
The last surviving oak tree is nuzzled between Kennard Washington Hall and Southern Hall.
Michelle Shinall, assistant director of marketing and campus relations at the Physical Plant, said the tree is a university icon.
“This tree is located in an area where people are laying clothes on it, hanging around, taking pictures and enjoying its presence,” she said.
The University Communications Office brought the idea of having a tree-naming contest to the Physical Plant’s attention.
“What better way to honor it than by giving it a name?” Shinall said.
Erikson and Shinall are both members of the Southern Miss Tree Management Task Force, a non- governing committee of certified arborists. Founded in 2011, the organization is made up of eight faculty members and one student representative who are in charge of anything tree-related on campus.
Southern Miss was titled a Tree Campus U.S.A by Arbor Day Foundation with a landscaping team that “strives to maintain a healthy and thriving community forest,” Shinall said.
According to the National Arbor Day Foundation’s website, “Trees bring beauty to a building’s environment, as well as increased energy efficiency and greater tenant or homeowner satisfaction.”
All USM community members, including alumni, are welcome to participate in the naming.
“In the contest, we are looking for creativity, uniqueness, something that is witty yet connects students, faculty, staff and alumni to the university in some way,” Erickson said.
Submissions to the contest will be accepted until noon on Feb. 1. The USM community will vote upon entries from Feb. 2 – 9, and the Task Force will narrow the choices down to the top five.
The name of the oak tree will be revealed on Arbor Day, Feb. 10 – coincidentally the anniversary of the the 2013 tornado.
Festivities will begin at McLemore Hall with the planting of three new live oak trees, leading up to the big reveal.
The Task Force recently announced that 49 entries have been submitted.
Those who are planning to submit are encouraged to do so early. In case of duplicate names, the Task Force will only select the earliest dated submission.
The winner of the contest will receive a plaque with their name on it during the Arbor Day Ceremony. To submit your name in the contest, visit the USM Physical Plant website.