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Buckeye tree commemorated by COE alums

2013 buckeye plaque commemoration

Former UO cheerleader and COE alumna Mimi Sommerville was joined by football players from 55 years ago, current players including De'Anthony Thomas, and others on Thursday to place a plaque commemorating a yellow buckeye tree given to the UO following the 1958 Rose Bowl. The event was organized by the College of Education (COE) in conjunction with UO Athletics and Campus Operations. All event participants were either alumni of, or current students from the COE. They were (pictured at left, l to r):

 

  • Shyla Tollenaar - Sophomore, Education Foundations
  • Maggie Rouse - Sophomore, Education Foundations
  • Norm Chapman '59 - Education, former center and captain
  • De'Anthony Thomas - Junior, Family and Human Services
  • Margaret Casanova - widow of former Ducks coach Len Casanova
  • Herb Yamanaka - associate athletic director
  • Rodney Hardrick - Junior (Redshirt Sophomore), Education Studies
  • Mimi Sommerville '59 - Education, former cheerleader
  • Jack Crabtree '59 - Education, former quarterback

The tree – now 60 feet tall and a fixture outside the Lillis Business Complex – was a sapling when it was planted by Sommerville and others following the 1958 game, in which the UO lost to Ohio State, 10-7.

Norm Chapman, who played center on the UO's Rose Bowl team, and Jack Crabtree, the UO quarterback and Rose Bowl most valuable player, helped Sommerville plant the gift tree 55 years ago and returned on Thursday to help her commemorate the occasion. Sommerville commissioned the plaque, which includes the names of former UO Coach Len Casanova and J.C. Wheeler, the team's left end, along with Sommerville, Crabtree and Chapman.

Others attending Thursday's ceremony included Margaret Casanova, the coach's widow; Slim Sommerville, Mimi's husband and a trustee for the UO Foundation; Crabtree's wife, Diane; and Herb Yamanaka, who has worked in UO Athletics since 1960. Following the brief ceremony at Lillis, the group made its way to the COE complex, where current players and cheerleaders in the COE planted a young Katsura tree in honor of the gathering of current and former College of Education athletes. Current students planting the tree were:
  • Shyla Tollenaar - Sophomore, Education Foundations
  • Maggie Rouse - Sophomore, Education Foundations
  • De'Anthony Thomas - Junior, Family and Human Services
  • Rodney Hardrick - Junior (Redshirt Sophomore), Education Studies
  • Alejandro Maldonado - Senior, Family and Human Services

A photo that ran on the front page of the Oregon Daily Emerald on April 14, 1958 — the day after the tree was planted – shows Len Casanova with a shovel, dumping dirt around the buckeye sapling being held by quarterback Jack Crabtree, as a couple other players and a UO cheerleader look on.

Accounts differ on whether the buckeye sapling was presented to the UO by Ohio's governor or the Ohio State University president. The UO's president at the time – O. Meredith Wilson – is said to have bet a Douglas fir tree on the game.

Check out a gallery of photos from the event at Flickr.

A version of this story first appeared in Around the O on Oct. 25, 2013 (includes video)

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