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Chinese students from Chengdu to plant 'thank you tree'
5/06/09

Seven students from the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan Province, People’s Republic of China, will show their appreciation to the community that has been their home for the past nine month, planting a “thank you tree” at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 12, next to the Terra Cotta building on Main Street.

The ceremony is open to the public.

It was a year ago, on May 12, 2008, that a massive earthquake devastated Chengdu. Students enrolled in schools there were left with few options for continuing their educations. Under an initiative coordinated by the State University of New York (SUNY), 150 Chinese students were enrolled in 22 SUNY units for the current academic year.

SUNY said the initiative, which covered tuition, room and board, “allowed them to continue their education and return to their country as a vanguard to help rebuild the local economy and infrastructure in the earthquake impacted region.”

Five of the students enrolled in materials science courses, offered through Alfred University’s statutory unit, the New York State College of Ceramics, and two enrolled in liberal arts program at Alfred State College.

They arrived in Alfred in mid-August, just in time for the start of classes; with the ending of the school year approaching, the students are preparing to return home.

The tree they will plant Tuesday “expresses their gratitude for the opportunity to study here and for the ways in which faculty, students and the community have reached out with support and understanding,” explained Carla Coch, associate director of the Confucius Institute at Alfred University.

The tree they have chosen is a dawn redwood (metasequoia glyptostroboides), a deciduous conifer native to the Sichuan Province. An ancient tree once thought to be extinct, it was rediscovered in 1941 and successfully propagated.

“The students feel a living, permanent memorial is a fitting way to say ‘thank you’ for their year at Alfred, and to symbolize the transformation of loss to renewal, of sorrow to hope,” said Coch.

She extended a special thanks to Jim Sauerbier at Steuben Landscaping in Wayland and to Glenn Zweygardt, professor emeritus of sculpture, School of Art & Design at Alfred University, for the plaque.