In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the school lost its Black Walnut tree.
Though it may seem like it’s just a tree, it was extremely valuable to the campus not only for its history but also to many people who have seen the various changes ABAC has gone through over the years. The tree was believed to have originated through Dr. Vernon Yow.
The Dean of Men and a professor of forestry at ABAC for 32 years (1950-1982). The tree was planted near the girl’s dorms, now known as the Health and Sciences building.
Over the years the area experienced a lot of construction and the tree barely survived. Without the insistence of Wanda Golden, the tree would have been lost.
Mr. Brad Barbee, the groundskeeper for ABAC, was hired in 2008 and says that when he arrived, the Black Walnut tree was in a ‘really bad’ state. With a lot of work by pruning, hand watering the tree for 3 years, replenishing the topsoil from the farms and by the incorporation of a 10-10-10 tree spike (graciously donated by Pennington Seed), Barbee managed to bring the tree back from near death.
Barbee, the man responsible for the Black Walnut tree’s rejuvenation, as well as its care for the last 11 years, has grown a special bond with our campus’s Black Walnut tree and was understandably devastated when the tree fell. “I couldn’t even be in the area when it was being cut up and removed … 11 years of taking care of the tree coming to an end was a lot.” But losing the old tree was not really an ending, but a new beginning.
Mr. Michael Chason said, “Dedicated personnel went overboard to save the original tree but when Mother Nature intervened, other personnel… stepped up to make certain the legacy of the Black Walnut continued.”
The planting of the new Black Walnut tree puts a satisfactory close to the chapter of its predecessor and opens a new chapter of growth and wellbeing for the new tree and ABAC.
Barbee said, “We call the seedling ‘her son’ and again, will do our very best to take him under our wings so he can grow into a tree we can all be proud of.”
When asked about the significance of Mrs. Wanda Golden’s attendance to the planting of the original Black Walnut tree’s sapling, Dr. Doug Waid (professor emeritus of wildlife and forestry) stated, “Mrs. Golden attended the ‘planting’ along with Dean Earp and the students and that makes it an official new beginning in my book.”
Dean Earp believes that this is the opening of a new chapter for the school. ABAC is a place that takes great care of its campus and the students that attend it, of course like any other place it has its ups and downs, but for the most part, it is a place that inspires growth, be it through a Black Walnut tree or a student.