Penn State Altoona builds its Legacy Tree and Bench program with a new interactive map.
By: Marissa Carney
“As a student, I noticed the trees, but working on this project made me appreciate the beauty they bring to the campus.”
Amber Friday graduated from Penn State Altoona in December 2020 with a degree in management and marketing. Throughout that fall semester, she interned with the college’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations, learning what it means to be a development professional at the University.
As part of the internship, Friday took on a project to reinvigorate Penn State Altoona’s Ivyside Legacy Tree and Bench program. What began as a tree sustainability effort has also taken on remembrance, celebration, and philanthropy components.
Anyone within the Penn State and greater community can purchase a sapling to plant or an existing tree, each with a plaque and/or a bench in a loved one’s name or honor. These tributes are found all around the campus. The program has helped reconnect Penn State Altoona with alumni and friends of the college and allowed them to leave a physical philanthropic imprint on campus. Donors work through the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to secure their dedication.
Jeanie Geist is just one such donor. She purchased a bench plaque to honor her late husband, the Honorable Pennsylvania State Representative Richard A. ‘Rick’ Geist. “In 2012, wishing to honor my dear husband’s 34 years of service to the constituents of Pennsylvania’s 79th District and the people of the Commonwealth, the ‘bench-naming’ at his alma mater proved to be the perfect gift. Penn State always held a special place in Rick's heart. He had multitudes of cherished memories at the beautiful Ivyside Campus. His named bench is so special.”
“Working on this project gave me the opportunity to learn about the importance of stewardship and how much it impacts the donor relationship,” Friday reflects. Stewardship is a comprehensive effort at Penn State to ensure that donors experience interactions fostering long-term engagement and investment. Meaningful stewardship is a critical function of Development and Alumni Relations at each University campus.
A large part of Friday’s internship included documenting each existing tree's locations, plaque, and bench throughout the campus. Then, working with the Office of Strategic Communications, she helped create an interactive map of the 115 trees and two benches for the Penn State Altoona website.
The map makes it easy for donors and community members alike to locate commemorative trees on campus, read information about them, and access photos of plaques. Development and Alumni staff can use the map to quickly find available locations for new or existing trees and benches and assist the public with questions.
The Ivyside Legacy Tree and Bench program brings beauty to the campus and allows friends and alumni alike to leave a footprint at the college.
“My sister and I both started at Penn State Altoona and ended up with multiple degrees from the University,” says Jack Sinclair, an employee of the college since 2000 who now serves as the director of Continuing Education. “I bought a tree on campus to honor the sacrifices our parents made and the encouragement they gave us. My 94-year-old mother still has a picture of herself standing beside ‘her’ tree hanging in her living room. Six years ago, my daughter got engaged standing in front of her grandparent's tree on campus. Every time I walk past that tree, I am reminded of what is important in my life. That is a lot for one tree—I may need to buy another.”
For more information on establishing your legacy tree or bench, contact the Penn State Altoona Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 814-949-5104.