Alumni spearhead effort to make TSU quad a ‘focal point’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Features Editor

Truth is purest when rumors are dispelled.

So, the truth is the magnolia trees on Troy State University’s Shackleford Quad will not be felled.

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However, some – perhaps many – of the pecan trees on Bibb Graves Quad will be removed to utilize the original plan for the campus as designed by the Olmstead brothers, the renowned landscape architects, who designed New York City’s Central Park and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.

Jack Hawkins Jr,, chancellor of the TSU System, said the original plans for the college campus were found by chance.

"The original plans had been lost for many years, but were found stuffed behind a drawer in an old desk," Hawkins said. "We were very fortunate to have found the plans, which were hand-designed early on by the Olmstead brothers, who designed many major American sites."

By utilizing the original plans for the campus, Hawkins said the main quad will be turned into a "people friendly place."

In order to use the Olmstead brother’s design for the campus, many changes will be made to the Bibb Graves Quad. Taking down pecan trees is the change that has caused some concern by students and alumni.

The pecan trees were on-site in 1922 when the land was purchased by the "college." The tree-covered quad has become a university landmark, but, the quad has not remained unchanged over the years.

Fifteen years ago, many trees were cut to provide space for additional parking, "at a detriment to our campus," Hawkins said.

Additional trees were lost to hurricane-force winds and time has claimed others.

"At Troy State University we have a rigid policy about cutting trees on campus," Hawkins said. "Nothing is cut without the approval of this office. We are very responsible in how we manage our environment. Sometimes I think we might go to the extreme to protect our trees. Any removal of trees is done out of necessity or to enhance an area."

Area enhancement is what the Olmstead brothers’ plans will bring to the university campus, the chancellor said.

The plans will transform the quad from a parking area with trees into the university’s "Denny Chimes."

"We don’t have a focal point at Troy State University," Hawkins said. "The Olmstead brothers’ plans will allow us to have an impressive focal point,

once this dream is realized. The plans will make this area of the campus a special place and one of which all TSU students and alumni will be proud."

The plans call for parking to be eliminated altogether, making the entire quad a park-like area for pedestrians only.

The plans call for intersecting sidewalks, a large fountain, which incorporates a pedestal topped with a a 9-foot statue of a Trojan into its design and beautifully-designed landscaping throughout.

"A tree or two will be eliminated, but other trees will take their places," Hawkins said. "The entire area will be one of beauty and it will be unmarred by vehicle traffic. The quad will be the focal point of our campus and it will give our campus an identity that we haven’t had. I’m excited about this new vision for Troy State University and I’m looking forward to the day the dream is realized."

Just when the dream is realized will depend on the success of the fund-raising effort for the $1.4 million project, said Jean Laliberte, vice president of advancement at TSU, said the quad project is being driven by the TSU National Alumni Association and no state money will be used to bring the project to fruition.

"TSU alumni came to us with the idea for this project and finding the original plans for the campus has given new life and enthusiasm to the project," Laliberte said. "The money to fund the project will come from grants and from individual donations."

The university has applied for four grants and approval has been given for a $276,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation and a $5,000 planning grant from the Alabama Historical Commission.

The two outstanding grants are a $400,000 DOT grant and a $25,000 grant from the historical commission.

Because the plans are being used for the redesign of the campus, Laliberte said the university qualifies for grants available through the Alabama Historical Commission.

"We have received a sizable grant from the Earl Johnson family and that will go a long way in making this beautification project happen as planned," she said. "If all goes as planned and we have the money or pledges in place by spring, construction could begin during the summer."

Laliberte said an artist’s rendition of the quad’s appearance after the project is completed is "absolutely beautiful."

She agreed with Hawkins the area will be a focal point of the university and, in time, will be a landmark, with historical and personal significance for all TSU alumni.