Friday, April 27, 2018

Vol State Arboretum Honors Professor's Legacy

Today Vol State celebrated the grand opening of the Parris Powers Memorial Arboretum. It's an assemblage of trees around campus, which have all been identified and will be used for scientific study. Parris Powers is a former Chemistry professor at Vol State. He passed away in 2016, but his legacy shall live on.

Alumnus Cynthia Hernandez worked hard to make the arboretum become a reality.

“I studied at Vol State part-time between 2011 and 2015, I studied with emphasis in Environmental Science. I had opportunity to be president of Team Change for three years. During that time I met Professor Powers. I remember the first day of my sustainability class, he introduced me as the student who should be teaching the class; he had a way with making his students feel important. I saw Professor Powers about a month before he passed, and I shared with him that I would be finishing the project, I wish he could be here,” said Hernandez.

Cynthia emphasized her gratitude for Professor Powers for his support and encouragement. She also gives credit to faculty member Kelly Ormsby for sparking the idea of the campus arboretum. Cynthia worked closely with many faculty members, including Dr. Ellen Dayhuff, and certified arborists to complete her project.

Both of Professor Power’s children were present at the event. Summer Powers said, “He instilled a sense of wanting to learn about things besides myself. I know my dad would be very proud. I think it’s important to learn about environmental sciences because we live in a world where we are constantly cutting down trees and not replacing them. We are destroying our entire world, we know it, and we aren’t doing anything about it.”

“First of all, this dedication and memorial is just an incredible blessing to our family,” said Christian Powers. He loved his students, they were our competition,” he jokes. “These trees, they were planted, and they have a story just like you and I. We have all been planted in various capacities, we’ve been nurtured, we’ve been watered. It doesn’t stop here, these trees are going to continue to grow, they’re going to bear fruit, plant seeds, and there’s going to be a second coming, another generation. This is a living testament to my dad’s investment in others. There’s not enough time or words to express my excitement and joy.”

As for the organizer, Cynthia Hernandez, she has turned her love for environmental science into a career. She now holds the position of program specialist for the Tennessee Environmental Council.

There is a map of the Parris Powers Memorial Arboretum located in the Duffer Plaza for anyone who is interested in studying more about the specific trees on campus. The official website is now ready for browsing as well at

-By Rachel Keyes

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