Winter 2010-2011 Michigan Tech Magazine

The Leaning Tree

By John Gagnon

Michigan Tech's Leaning Tree, a grand white pine in the center of the campus, died on Tuesday, August 17, 2010, in the small hours of the morning. She was cut down lest she fall down and, in dying, take with her any bystanders unfortunate enough to be loitering in the vicinity. Also known as the Inclined Pine and the EERC Tree (the latter for her proximity to the Electrical EnergyResources Center), she was 139 and in ill health, her once green and graceful limbs mostly brown and barren.

Her family tree extends back hundreds of years, to the big, long lived white pines that are native to the Great Lakes states. She will be remembered for her resilience in the face of what one observer calls a "hardscape" environment of encroaching concrete. She succumbed to the sometimes harsh, unsentimental hand of urban forestry, which has to routinely deal with stingy and challenging conditions, as well as safety.

From humble beginnings as a mere seedling, the Leaning Tree grew to lofty prominence. In her lifetime, she saw the world transformed—from the overcutting of her forebears to the birth of silviculture. As well, she cast her shadow equally on the mighty and lowly;she witnessed the ascendancy of nine Michigan Tech presidents; and she saw the coming of age of the institution evidenced by a graduating class that went from a mere seven to more than one thousand.

It is uncertain whether her place as the natural centerpiece of the campus was accidental or intentional. Regardless, she fulfilled the role splendidly. "I recall the tree's big beauty," said Mark Dion '83, of Houston. Tim Collins, a former dean of the School of Technology, says that she started her lean in the late 1960s with the placement of the campus steam tunnels: "I can remember a guy wire on the tree during construction to keep the tree from falling into the excavation."

It took just minutes for the hand of man to cut through time and topple her with a resounding crash. Her last words, for those who could hear them, were, "Just as the worm forgives the plow, the tree forgives the chain saw."

Another white pine has been planted where she stood, and it is hoped that this heir will be ever green.

"This is a sad, sad day for any Michigan Tech student," said William Morris '02. "The EERC Tree is dead. Long live the EERC Tree. May EERC Tree 2 have a long reign."