The giving tree
Century Tree seedlings raise over $100,000 for scholarship fund
Published: Monday, June 17, 2013
Updated: Monday, June 17, 2013 23:06
The Century Tree has remained a cherished piece of Texas A&M’s history and traditions since the early days of the University. Well over 100 years old, it has seen thousands of students bustling to classes, lounging in academic plaza and even wedding proposals — hundreds of wedding proposals.
Now, throughout the southern U.S., this famous tree is spreading its reach, sprouting new generations of trees across the nation all in thanks to Andy Duffie, Class of 1978. His goal of sprouting trees from the acorns of the Century Tree has led to a President’s Endowed Scholarship of more than $100,000, all of which will help an incoming freshman pay for his or her educations.
In 2008, Duffie started a small project without knowing where it would take him.
“This actually started as an experiment,” Duffie said. “I was on campus in September of 2008 for my 35th class reunion. We were walking past the Century Tree and noticed that it was laden with bunches of acorns so I picked some off the tree and put them in my pocket to take home. I was just thinking how cool it would be if I could get some of them to sprout. Unfortunately, not a single acorn sprouted.”
Duffie said he later learned that acorns aren’t mature until they drop from the tree, normally in early October. He came back the next year and picked up about 50 acorns and repeated the process. He said of those 50, only about 10 sprouted.
After another year, Duffie came more prepared, bringing an ice chest that he filled with 3,000 acorns hoping to get around 500 to sprout.
“I thought other Aggies would find it cool to have one of these trees growing in their yard and I figured I could sell them and use the funds to create a President’s Endowed Scholarship. So doing the simple math, if I had 500 trees I would charge $200 per tree, which is a pricey amount, but it would allow me to raise $100,000.”
With this price tag in mind, Duffie knew that the quality of his product would matter.
“I raised these acorns that had sprouted into trees for two years in my backyard,” he said. “I had to water them 2-3 times week, transplant them and fertilize them, the whole nine yards. But it was kind of a labor of love that went on for two years. I was able to market my trees via Facebook and through word of mouth and I pre-sold them to Aggies all over the state of Texas and the southern part of the United States in regions where live oaks can grow.”
Eventually he settled on a price and sold trees individually for $250 and in bulk for $200 apiece.
In August of 2012, Duffie began shipping his trees across Texas and across the nation — from Virginia to Louisiana and everywhere in between.
The following September, Duffie packed up several trucks and personally drove his trees to buyers across the state, setting up drop off points with fellow Aggies throughout Texas.
Duffie was able to sell 540 trees and raised more than his $100,000 goal. Every bit of his profit went straight to funding The Century Tree President’s Endowed Scholarship through the Texas A&M Foundation.
“The first award for the scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2014 to an outstanding entering freshman,” Duffie said. “Usually a student maintains the award for the President’s Endowed Scholarship for four years and then after they graduate, someone else is awarded the scholarship. This is a perpetually awarded scholarship, the interest from the endowment is about $5,000 a year and it will be awarded to a student from each year from now on.”
Jody Ford of the Texas A&M Foundation has met and worked with Duffie to establish the scholarship fund.
“I got contacted by Andy when he first started the project,” Ford said. “After two years, he started to sell the trees, so I assisted him in creating the scholarship and the details. I helped him work out what kind of scholarship he wanted to do, which ultimately was a President’s Endowed Scholarship, which is pretty much the University’s flagship academic scholarship program that has been around for decades, well over 50 years.”
Through the entire process, Duffie said the best part was getting to meet all of the Aggies who purchased the trees.
“I have met lots of really neat Aggies, it’s been a wonderful experience meeting them and presenting them with the trees,” Duffie said. “About 100 of my trees were purchased by Aggie couples who were engaged under the Century Tree at one point or another over the years.”
Duffie has a Facebook page, where he said he encourages those who purchase his trees to upload pictures of themselves and family members posing in front of their tree.
Some of Duffie’s trees were purchased by people who wanted to donate a piece of Aggieland to deserving recipients. Bluebell Creamery in Brenham, owned by an Aggie family, is home to Duffie’s trees, as well as San Antonio Aggie Park and the Texas A&M–Galveston campus.