USF Curiosities: Planting trees at “Sandspur U”?

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What are you most proud of in your tenure at the University of South Florida?

Margaret Fisher didn’t select a moment of personal triumph or individual achievement in response to this question. Instead, she honed in on a moment that united the campus community.

Recorded in the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, Fisher, who arrived at USF in 1960 as the director of women’s affairs, describes how she was particularly proud of an “all-university enterprise,” where faculty, staff, and students came together to plant trees in the quad.

At the time, most people remember the campus as expansive, but barren with sand as far as the eye could see. So, the university was desperately in need of trees and colorful plants. Fisher was quickly put in charge of the beautification project.

Volunteers were gathered, faculty and staff were assembled, and students were recruited to help with the project. It was all hands on deck for this extraordinary moment of service and collaboration. The scope of the project was large:

“Where the old library is—the student services center—that whole length, clear down to the fine arts building. We put in all of those trees on both sides of the sidewalk, both sides [of the] mall in one day. We had a little forklift that ran around, brought the trees. When we got the hole deep enough—my knees have always been unsatisfactory. I have trouble climbing. Somebody would come around and help me climb out of the hole, then we’d get the tree in there and go back in. Oh, it was scientifically done. I have no idea how many people we had working, but it was plenty, and we didn’t have anybody running around loose, making mischief, … or anything. It was a wonderful day. I enjoyed that a lot.”

That being said, the day didn’t go by without a hitch:

“I remember Nancy McGillavry and I were in the same hole, and I had to do some time teaching her to fling the sand to leeward. She simply couldn’t get the idea of throwing it downwind. Good Lord! So I had an eye full of sand every once in a while. Windy day, blowing cold, you wouldn’t believe [it].”

Volunteers planting trees on Tampa campus in 1964
USF Digital Collections “Volunteers planting trees on Tampa campus in 1964” (U10-00184)

Dig up more captivating, and sometimes curious, recollections in the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project, housed in Digital Collections.


Want more USF Curiosities? Check out the posts in this series:



Factual information in this post was found in: Fisher, Margaret. (2003, July 11). Margaret Fisher, Interview by Yael V. Greenberg [Transcript]. USF 50th (2006) Anniversary Oral History Project (U23-00043). USF Digital Collections, Tampa, FL. p. 17-19.


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