Powell Pecan honored at Mayor's Proud Partners Luncheon

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Neha Goel

Keep Houston Beautiful and the City of Houston recently recognized the Rice University Grounds Department with an honorable mention at the 31st Annual Mayor’s Proud Partners Luncheon for the Powell Pecan tree. The Powell Pecan tree is located in Founder's Court and was planted in 2015 by retired General Colin Powell following the 102nd commencement to replace the legendary Pershing Pecan tree.

The original pecan tree, named after World War I military hero General John Pershing, was planted in February of 1920. General Pershing commanded American troops in Europe during the first World War and was one of the most acclaimed generals of his time. With his visit to Rice University in 1920, Pershing brought crowds of fans to campus to watch him plant this tree. When referencing this event, Rice University President Edgar Odell Lovett even stated that this tree would “symbolize to succeeding generations of students the strengths of the planter of the tree."

Sadly, several years ago, lightning struck the Pershing Pecan, damaging its vascular system. This incident severely weakened the tree and made it more susceptible to damage from insects. The Rice Grounds Department continued to care for the tree with numerous fertilizers and root treatments to eradicate the insects. These actions kept the tree alive for a few years, but about a month before commencement in 2015, one side of the tree turned brown and completely died. The Grounds crew removed the dead part of the tree to even out the load on the trunk, hoping to keep the tree alive as long as possible.

Immediately following the 102nd commencement, retired General Colin Powell helped to replant the pecan tree in memory of Pershing, a war hero who inspired him. Powell was an active member of the City College of New York Chapter of the Pershing Rifles, a prestigious college fraternal organization dedicated to military drill. He commanded troops during the Gulf War and provided unparalleled inspiration to the School of Leadership at his Alma Mater. With the help of Grounds Superintendent Ron Smith and Rice University President David W. Leebron, General Powell dedicated the new Powell Pecan tree to General Pershing’s accomplishments and legacy.