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A Tree Sponsored, A Message Memorialized

Botanic Garden - Leaflet

By Communications Manager Julie Thomson

memorial tree

Published March 25, 2024

Leaflet 2022

In the middle of Chapin Lawn, just outside the Campus Center, stands a magnificent Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii) that provides just the right amount of shade for Smithies on sunny days. While the oak is notable for its own majestic glory, it stands out for another reason as well.  On its trunk there is a plaque with the following quote: “Every thought and opinion starts in the minority of one. Your opinion counts.”

The quote was selected for the plaque by Sheryl L. Roth Rogers ’77 when she sponsored the oak as part of the botanic garden’s Memorial and Honorial Tree Program. In April 2021, she made a dual-purpose gift to sponsor a tree and to endow a scholarship fund. “The quote is similar to a quote that was on a poster in my room when I was a junior in high school and applying to Smith College,” Roth Rogers says. 

Roth Rogers grew up in Minnesota and enrolled at Smith without visiting the campus. Making that leap, she says, set her on a path that she’s been grateful for ever since. The quote from that high school-era poster remains powerful today, she says, and she wants to share it. “If only one person remembers the quote that’s OK. If they remember it five years from now, that’s OK, too,” says Roth Rogers. The important thing, she says, is that the message is out there. 

“Having someone that doesn’t know you say to you that you're an important person—that is powerful,” Roth Rogers continues. That’s what’s powerful about the Memorial and Honorial Tree Program as well: It provides a unique channel of communication for people to reach the entire Smith campus community. Alumnae and other Smith College supporters who sponsor a tree leave a living legacy on campus while also supporting the botanic garden. Gifts to the program start at $5,000 and cover the cost of maintaining the tree for its lifetime.

For alums who have special memories of the botanic garden, supporting it via the tree program is especially appealing. Roth Rogers says she would often go to Lyman Plant House and Conservatory when she was feeling stressed: It was her campus sanctuary. She loved the smell of the plants, and the lush environment. “It was a place you could go to that was just for you,” she recalls. “That for me is what the botanic garden meant.”