Anna Foley at Onward State wrote a very good feature on Penn State’s Old Willow. She also includes a poem I’ve never read before. I think Old Willow represents one of the most beautiful and remarkable college symbols and traditions in the country:

Penn State’s Old Willow trees are a rather unique part of the university’s history. By now, three trees have shared the name “Old Willow,” and each one adds to the name’s story and legacy. …

In March of 1966, Sara Craig Kufman published a poem about entitled “The Old Willow.” The poem spoke to how the tree was being forgotten among the university’s ambitious construction projects. The first two stanzas are as follows:

“The old weeping willow has disappeared
In urban’s progressive stride–
The campus landmark on the bend,
Stood sentinel as guide;
Its wide spread branches and welcome shade,
With sunshine’s spill, were deftly sprayed.”
“Students and ‘old grads’ had great respect
For willow’s permanent show”
Was written on the annals page
For all to read and know;
It swayed and spread throughout the years–
Leaving cherished souvenirs.” …

Maybe when you’re passing by Old Main on your way to class, you might be able to spot the descendent of Old Willow. … If you feel so inclined, you could even bow your head ever so slightly to the tree. You can join in the longest living tradition at Penn State, and join the thousands of past students that tipped their caps to Old Willow. These students didn’t just bow to the beautiful tree, the one that inspired poems and letters — they bowed to the history of the university. They respected the past of Penn State, while they looked to the future. We can do the same today.

“These students didn’t just now to the beautiful tree… they bowed to the history of the university.” 

I’ve thought, written, and spoken about this tree for many years, and Anna captures the “point” of Old Willow better in that sentence than I ever have.