June 12, 2013

Beloved Texas A&M Century Tree Sprouts $100,000 Endowed Scholarship

It’s perhaps the only tree in America that has a scholarship named in its honor — a $100,000 endowed scholarship, no less. It’s fitting, especially since the Century Oak that graces the heart of the Texas A&M University campus had a big role in raising the big bucks. It produced the prized acorns that sprouted into seedlings for which hundreds of Aggies clamored to buy at $250 a pop.

The Century Oak has a wide reach. Its branches reach out more than 75 feet — some so long and heavy that they have long had to rest on the ground. In another sense, its reach stretches across America, with more than 500 seedlings grown from its acorns literally thriving from coast to coast — from Washington state to the west and the Carolinas and Virginia to the east.

Given its fund-raising ability, the venerable live oak is in a sense contradicting the assertion that money doesn’t grow on trees. It does on the Century Tree, at least figuratively.

Andy Duffie and Jody Ford of the Texas A&M Foundation display a check symbolizing the $100,000 Duffie raised for a scholarship through the sale of seedlings produced from acorns produced by Texas A&M’s Century Tree shown in the background. One of the 540 seedlings grown by Duffie rests on the bench beside him.

Andy Duffie and Jody Ford of the Texas A&M Foundation display a check symbolizing the $100,000 Duffie raised for a scholarship through the sale of seedlings produced from acorns produced by Texas A&M’s Century Tree shown in the background. One of the 540 seedlings grown by Duffie rests on the bench beside him.

The Century Tree — sometimes called the Century Oak — is so named because campus lore has it dating back more than a century — cropping up not long after the 1876 opening of the oldest public institution of higher learning in Texas.  Some skeptics question the live oak’s longevity, but no one questions the love Aggies have for it — certainly not the many who formalized their marriage aspirations under its branches.

Its seedlings — 540 to be precise — actually generated more than the $100,000 needed to endow the top-tier scholarship that will be used for decades to come in helping Texas A&M attract even more high-achieving students, including National Merit Scholars. The first Century Tree President’s Endowed Scholarship will be presented to an incoming freshman in the fall of 2014 through the Texas A&M Foundation, which serves as the university’s major-gifts fund-raising organization.

It’s all the result of a labor of love by Andy Duffie, a 1978 Texas A&M graduate with a green thumb that he was happy and willing to put to good use for the benefit of his alma mater and the students who will benefit from the premier scholarship that he made possible.

In addition to delivering on his commitment to raise the $100,000 for the endowment, Duffie rented U-Haul trucks and personally delivered the majority of the trees that he grew in his backyard for two years. Grown from acorns gathered in 2010, the trees ranged in height from four to six feet when delivered.

“I personally delivered about 500 trees in three separate U-Haul trips around Texas,” Duffie notes. ”I also shipped shorter trees by UPS to Aggies all over Texas as well as to Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Washington state, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

“These special trees are living pieces of Aggieland and will be enjoyed by Aggies for generations to come,” Duffie adds, pointing out the purchases were made by former students of all ages.

Some of the $250 trees were purchased by Aggies and donated to other recipients. For example, one tree was purchased and donated to Governor Rick Perry, a 1972 Texas A&M graduate, and is now growing on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. Several trees were presented as gifts to newly married Aggies. Others were purchased and placed at Texas A&M’s branch campus in Galveston, the San Antonio Aggie Park and the Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham. Still others were purchased in honor of deceased Aggies or to honor older Aggie family members.

“Over 100 of my trees were purchased by Aggie couples of all generations who were engaged under the Century Tree at some point in time,” Duffie says. “They were very pleased to have their own Century Tree seedling now growing in their yards at home.”

Some Aggies bought in volume, taking advantage of Duffie’s offer to sell at $200 each if more than two trees were purchased by an individual. Two Aggies loaded up with eight each.

Duffie seems to have enjoyed delivering the trees almost as much as he enjoyed nursing them into condition to be delivered.

“During my deliveries, I literally met hundreds of awesome Aggies who were thrilled to receive their trees,” notes Duffie, who resides in the north central town of Vernon. “The Aggie Connection is still very much alive and well! It never ceases to amaze me how strongly we are all connected through one tie or another.”

He says he encouraged the new Aggie tree owners to email him pictures of their tree planted in their yards. “I posted those pics on my Facebook page (Aggie Century Tree Project),” he reports, adding his Facebook page also includes a map showing the planting locations of many of the Century Tree seedlings around Texas and the southern U.S.

He says since concluding the project, he has received over 150 more tree orders from Aggies who belatedly learned of the project. “I have encouraged several of those unfortunate Aggies to grow their own Century Tree seedlings from acorns, just as I did, and I have provided them with many tips and suggestions for doing so.”

It’s not just Aggies who consider the tree famous. The Century Tree has received “Famous Tree of Texas” designation by the Texas A&M Forest Service. The “Famous Tree of Texas” designation is reserved for “an elite group of trees that have ‘witnessed exciting times in Texas frontier history’ and are alive today,” says Gretchen Riley, the program’s coordinator.

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Media Contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4662

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3 Comments to Beloved Texas A&M Century Tree Sprouts $100,000 Endowed Scholarship

  1. I bought two and planted them last fall at my cabin at Paisano Baptist Encampment in the Davis Mountains north of Big Bend. I hired a young man there to water them through the winter and they are doing great. Proud of my Clas of ’78 classmate and proud to be a part of that $100,000 scholarship endowment. Gig ‘Em.

  2. Barry Moak. TAMU Class of '78 on June 20th, 2013
  3. As the PROUDEST member of the Fightn’ Texas Aggie Class of 2007, I could think of no better place to be then College Station on Saturday, September 8th 2012. The Texas A&M campus was bustling with excitement and filled with hope for a great kickoff to the Aggies new start in the SEC. My sweet boyfriend would have it no other way then to surprise me months before the game with 50 yard line tickets. Tickets that had me excited WEEKS before the big game. All of my attention was focused on our Aggie team. We stood, as proud members of the 12th man, throughout the game. Although the game clock ended with the Aggies still behind, I left knowing we hadn’t lost the game, just merely ‘ran out of time.’ At the conclusion of the game, we walked across campus towards the famous Northgate to cool off with some cold beverages at The Dixie Chicken. As we walked I reminded my boyfriend of the tradition of the Century tree. Just the night before the game, on our way to Midnight yell he had mentioned to me he had never heard of this tradition. I was flabbergasted, although he attended Texas A&M, he went as a graduate student, not an undergrad, which I figured didn’t allow him to fully embrace the traditions that Texas A&M was founded on. On our way to Yell practice I explained that if a couple walks under the tree they are supposed to be together forever. He laughed that night, but told me maybe we’d see it tomorrow after the game. Well it was after the game. And it was on the way to Northgate. As we approached the famous Century tree, I noticed rose petals on down the sidewalk. I got very giddy and explained to my boyfriend he’d actually get to SEE a proposal happen in REAL life under the tree! As we moved closer I noticed tea lights which adorned the edges of the walk way and a beautiful bouquet of roses and a bottle of champagne sitting on the bench under the tree. I thought that girl is SO lucky! I insisted my boyfriend and I head over to the side to watch the proposal, yet he insisted we go ‘look’. I was mortified by his lack of manners. I didn’t think he realized he was IN THE WAY of another couple about to have a special moment! There was a large crowd on the far side of the tree, so I decided to move that way, so I could get a good look at the event taking place. That’s when my boyfriend ran after me, grabbed my arm and said, “you are SO stubborn” He lead me toward the middle of the tree and got down on his knee and as he asked, “Will you marry me Amanda,” I heard a sweet fiddle player in the background playing our song “I love you” by Eli Young Band. It was the most romantic moment of my life. But it got better. After I gleefully said YES, a mass crowd came toward us. My family, friends, co-workers, they were all there to witness this special moment in our lives! AND he had hired one of the BEST photographers in Texas, JP Beato, to capture the moments of our special day. Texas A&M tradition says that when a couple gets engaged under the tree they will be married, happily, forever. AND EVER!
    Jerrod and I have been married for 6 months now- going on a century. The tree will ALWAYS hold a special place in our hearts.
    I have copies of these wonderful pictures from the famous JP Beato as well- if you’d like a copy.

  4. Amanda Jones, '07 on June 21st, 2013
  5. Though I’m not an Aggie, Former Student, I am proud to say I have three daughters and one son-in-law, that graduated, with five degrees, from TAMU. I also have two grandsons wearing Texas A&M colors proudly.

  6. Jerome J. Sauber, DVM on June 22nd, 2013
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