By Joseph Hughes
Unmistakable in their beauty, blossoming cherry trees in peak bloom welcome visitors to Ohio University each year, heralding the arrival of spring. The white blooms provide a picturesque entrance to the University from the south. When the short peak bloom ends, the blossoms fall to the ground while at their most beautiful.
Now, thanks to Japan's Chubu University's generous donation of trees and tree maintenance to Ohio University's Bicentennial Campaign, the annual vista provided by blossoming cherry trees promises to be a fixture in Athens for years to come.
"The cherry grove is a signature spot on campus," says Mark Whitney, director of Grounds, Recycling & Refuse at Ohio University. "Many photos are taken there, and it is greatly enjoyed by the entire community. It is especially stunning from the view across the river."
In the 31st year of its relationship with Ohio University, Chubu University's ties date back to 1973, when former University President Claude Sowle and then-Chubu President Kohei Miura signed an exchange agreement. Since then, more than 30 Ohio University faculty have lectured at Chubu.
The Kohei Miura Visiting Professorship helps send an Ohio University professor to Chubu each spring. Last year, Miura Professor John Schermerhorn, the O'Blenness Professor of Management, presented a painting of a winter view at Ohio University to Chubu officials, commemorating 30 years between the two institutions.
On the occasion of the University's 175th anniversary, Chubu donated 175 Yoshino cherry trees. Since then, storm damage and other injury left 97 of the trees remaining by 2003. It was then that officials from Chubu contacted Whitney. The university was interested in honoring Ohio University's bicentennial by increasing that number to 200.
That spring, when Taijiro Nonaka from Chubu was a visiting professor of engineering, he joined Whitney and other Chubu officials to inspect the grove and make final arrangements. Prior to this spring's planting, Chubu University also made a gift of extensive tree maintenance to the original grove, including thinning, pruning, cavity work and wound dressing.
The second part of the gift included planting 94 Yoshino cherry trees and nine Double Weeping cherries. "I was told the chancellor at Chubu especially liked weeping cherries," Whitney says, "so I made sure to include some in the mix!"
The donation also allows for the expansion of the grove. "The new planting east of the Richland Avenue bridge extends the look from west to east and frames the view one gets of campus as one approaches," says Whitney. "This view will only improve as the trees mature."
Chubu University has also commemorated the bicentennial by generously supporting the renovation and expansion of Burson House, home to Ohio University's Center for International Studies. The building will be renamed Yamada International House in honor of the late Chubu Chancellor Yamada, who helped nurture the two institutions' relationship late in the 20th century.
"We are grateful for the friendship of Chubu University and for their interest in the aesthetic qualities of the Ohio University campus," Glidden says. "Japanese people are especially sensitive about aesthetics and I take it as a symbol of Chubu's respect for Ohio University that they have contributed to the beauty of our campus."
Joseph Hughes is a writer with University Communications and Marketing.