Symbolic of IUP history and tradition, the Oak Grove has long been at the heart of the campus. For former IUP President William Hassler, it was a favorite spot for a walk during his presidential tenure (1969-1975).
Hassler died in 1997. His widow, Mary, and three children, Virginia Hassler Noble, Thomas Hassler ’69, and Marty Hassler Chapman ’72, have honored his memory and contributed to the revitalization of the Oak Grove by purchasing a bench in Hassler's name.
Revitalization is critical: The beauty and serenity of the Oak Grove have overshadowed the less apparent slowly declining health of the flora, not only in the grove but all across the IUP campus. Until recently, the trees in the Oak Grove had not received professional attention in many years.
A renovation and preservation program for the Oak Grove was the first major project of the Allegheny Arboretum Board. Selected trees were pruned and removed from the grove last spring.
“Over the past thirty years there has been a decrease in the diversity of the woody plants on campus,” said Jerry Pickering, IUP biology professor and chairperson of the Allegheny Arboretum Board. “A considerable portion of the inventory is marked by short-lived species prone to pests and pathogens, invasive non-native species, and others that lack character and seasonal interest.”
In January, 2000, IUP President Lawrence K. Pettit appointed an Arboretum Board at the university. The board recommended that the arboretum encompass the entire university campus, similar to what has been done at Swarthmore College, Connecticut College, and the University of Nebraska. The official name—the Allegheny Arboretum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania—reflects the geological and ecological characteristics of the area and helps identify the type of plant associations in the arboretum.
The Arboretum Board intends to develop the Oak Grove into an “oak community” area. This means it will encompass all the trees and plants in this area associated with the natural oak habitat that is the dominant vegetation type in Pennsylvania.
The first major project of the Arboretum Board was to develop a renovation and preservation program for the grove. A tree inventory commissioned by the university in July, 1994, provided information for the project. An Urban and Community Forestry Grant funded by the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, plus a matching amount from IUP, supplied $10,000 for the initial support for both the Oak Grove restoration and the establishment of the Allegheny Arboretum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The first phase of the renovation and preservation program took place during Spring Break last March when selected trees were pruned or removed from the grove. With restoration work nearing completion on the existing trees, the university will soon begin replacing the removed trees and establishing a living plan, including mulching and irrigation, to maintain and preserve the Oak Grove into the future.
The trees are visually the most important part of the grove, but they are not the only part. The lawn also needs renovation, and a regular lawn maintenance program must be established. The present walk system through the grove, developed in 1982, will be re-evaluated and replaced as necessary. Lighting and amenities such as benches, planters, trash receptacles, etc. will be added or replaced.
Picnics in the Grove every Wednesday during summer classes are popular with students, faculty, staff, and townspeople.
The Oak Grove Restoration and Preservation Program will be coordinated with and incorporated into the restoration and preservation of other areas of the original campus, including Sutton Hall, the old fountain east of Sutton, and Flagstone Theater. In addition to pruning and replacement, the initial funds will assist with establishing a fertilization and mulching program, implementing an interim tree-labeling program, and creating an ongoing preservation and tree replacement program.
A master plan will be developed that will incorporate the vision of the arboretum as a living museum, an outdoor classroom that can be a resource for ecological, horticultural, and historical education as well as a place for outdoor recreation or peaceful contemplation. The Arboretum Board is working with organizations in Indiana to integrate the arboretum into the community so that it becomes a resource and source of learning, recreation, and pleasure for the entire region. The arboretum will enhance local economic development by promoting “green tourism” in Indiana County.
As with many special university projects, charitable gifts are critical to the success of the revitalization of the Oak Grove and to making the campuswide arboretum a reality. The Hassler family’s gift is just one example. Like many IUP “families,” the Hasslers have created a visible legacy of a father who served as president, two children who received degrees from IUP, a granddaughter, Jessica Chapman Randolf ’91, and another granddaughter, Alexis Chapman, still here on campus earning her degree. Other alumni have contributed generously by purchasing trees, funding landscaped areas, or contributing to the arboretum general fund.
For more information about the arboretum or to obtain information about making a tax-deductible gift to the arboretum, visit the website at www.iup.edu/arboretum or contact Bonnie Juliette, director of Individual Giving, at 724-357-5555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Foundation for IUP at 724-357-5661.