News Releases

Graduate, family leave lasting gift with donation of tree

May 23, 2008
While most new graduates might be happy with money, cars or vacations as commencement gifts, 2008 Lander University alumna Linlei Ward wanted something that could be enjoyed by the entire university community for decades to come.
In honor of her accomplishments at Lander, Ward's parents, J.W. and Toni Ward of Kingstree, donated funds to the university's arboretum project, resulting in the placement of an oak tree near one of Lander's most recognized buildings, Laura Lander Hall.
"Lander has been a special place for Linlei, and we wanted a way to permanently honor her and her time at the university," said Toni Ward. "It's something she will be able to bring her children and grandchildren to see."
Ward, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Lander and plans to continue her studies at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, said she was interested in supporting green space on Lander's campus.
"The beauty of the campus was one of the things that attracted me to Lander in the first place," she said. "It feels great to now give something back that will be a part of the campus." 
After receiving the Wards' donation, Lander's Arboretum Committee selected the species of tree - a Shumard Oak - and decided where it would be placed. The oak, planted May 8, will be part of a circle of oak trees on the older part of campus, said Lander associate professor of biology Michael Runyan, who also served as Ward's adviser. The tree will eventually have a plaque identifying the tree and honoring Ward.
Runyan said the Shumard Oak is a hearty native tree with a moderate growth rate. "When the circle of oaks is complete, it will be a focal area and a beautiful addition to Lander's campus," Runyan said. "Each tree is an important piece of the puzzle, and the Wards have made a valuable contribution that will be enjoyed by many in the years to come."
Lander's Arboretum Committee, composed of university representatives and community members, formed in 2004 to oversee landscaping projects on campus. The group has already coordinated the addition of a number of species of oaks, maples, crape myrtles and other flora throughout campus.
The Lander Arboretum Committee relies on donations to help keep the project going on campus, and there are numerous opportunities - from planting trees and shrubs to placing benches on campus - to honor or memorialize friends and loved ones. For information about donations to the project, contact the Lander University Office of Advancement at 864-388-8350.