UM turns to forest as a symbolic way to honor the future for the Class of 2020

Posted at 4:32 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 16:20:04-04

OVANDO — It would have been a beautiful day for Commencement in Missoula over the weekend, but circumstances prevented that.

However, new circumstances arose -- a chance by University of Montana leadership to pay tribute to the Class of 2020 by planting something for the future.

It wasn't caps and gowns, but masks and hoedads this weekend, as University of Montana leaders, staff and volunteers gathered to plant 2,020 western larch to honor the Class of 2020.

Planting trees for them just seemed like a great way to celebrate their achievements under there extraordinary circumstances," said UM Communications Director Paula Short. "And really to demonstrate that we're hopeful in spite of COVID-19 and all the challenges we're currently facing."

"Planting a tree is a great symbol of hope for a bright future. And we're in the midst of a tough challenge," said UM President Seth Bodnar. "But we do have obviously have very strong hope and excitement about a bright future and a bright future for the Class of 2020."

The 3,600 acre, university-owned Bandy Ranch on the Upper Blackfoot is the perfect place for the tribute, as Bodnar's family and the rest of the team were briefed on planting to mark this unusual time, in a very "Montana" place.

Then it was time to fan out through the forest, with everyone pitching in.

"Well this great." said UM Executive Vice Principal Jon Harbor. "This is meaningful to our students because many of our students have a strong ethic around the environment, around sustainability and resilience."

"It's something that they know that, over the decades to come, they're making a contribution to this amazing place, to sustainability, carbon sequestration. So it has so much meaning to our students and our community compared to some of the other things that we could have done," he added.

"This is really about the full range of things that we do at the university."

While Bandy Ranch is a long way from the University of Montana campus, an effort will be made to honor the class on campus as well. A special tree will be planted in the coming weeks the UM Oval.