Growing a legacy: new trees part of auction event

Academy kicks off special Action Auction 50 Arbor Day Celebration with a ceremonial tree-planting.

Academy Head of School Tommy Adams addresses students, parents, faculty, staff and friends at GPA’s Arbor Day celebration on April 28.

In a new twist to an established annual fund-raising campaign, The Grosse Pointe Academy — a coed, preK-8 independent day school located in Grosse Pointe Farms —  commemorated its 50th-annual Action Auction with the “Action Auction 50 Arbor Day Celebration,” an event designed to call attention to the planting of one tree on school grounds for every auction sponsor at the $5,000 threshold or above.

“Our beautiful school is situated on a historic 20-acre campus,” said Kristen Van Pelt, the Academy’s director of development. “With century-old architecture, the facility is a striking sight: a majestic property set amongst lush and diverse trees that have been a huge part of the school’s history.”

Now, in this effort to help the environment, add to the school’s landscape and boost its biggest fundraising event, Academy officials hosted a tree-planting on Arbor Day, which this year occurred on April 28. In addition to the tree-planting, the event included the recognition of the more than 30 sponsors to date who have donated $5,000 or more to the auction for the project.

A tree-lined history

Founded in 1885 as an all-girls school by the Society of the Sacred Heart, an order of cloistered nuns, the lakefront property on which the Academy sits was also a self-sustaining farm for more than 50 years. With an abundance of apple, pear and cherry trees as well as grape arbors and raspberry bushes, the nuns and students dined on seasonal fruits, applesauce, jams, jellies and other condiments made from their annual harvests.

“Over the years, however, the landscape of the site has changed,” Van Pelt said. “A significant number of trees have come down due to storms, lightning strikes and age. Trees hold a special place in the hearts of our community. They capture the imagination of both young and old and link us to our past as well as remind us that although much has changed in the last century, these noble trees provide permanence and ultimately a sense of comfort.”

The Grosse Pointe Academy’s 50th annual auction will be held May 13, 2017, beginning at 6 p.m. in the school’s Tracy Fieldhouse. Academy officials hosted a tree-planting on Arbor Day, which this year was Friday, April 28.

Another part of the school’s arbor history recalled by GPA administrators is a story that has been passed down through generations of Grosse Pointers.

Two rows of silver maples, many of which are still standing, were planted on either side of a pathway that began at the oldest building on the campus and extended west along Kenwood Road. “The Sacred Heart nuns would take leisurely walks through this path as a respite during sunny afternoons,” Van Pelt said. “No one really knows the precise date when the trees were planted, but it was likely done around the turn of the century.”

This means the silver maples are more than 110 years old and will likely reach their maximum life expectancy within the next two decades.

“The arbor project is an extraordinary opportunity for friends of The Grosse Pointe Academy to play a part of the school’s tree conservation, as well as a wonderful way to secure their place in its history,” Van Pelt said. “We look at this project as a total win-win not only for the school but for its generous supporters.”

More than 100 years ago, the Sacred Heart nuns who lived on the property now occupied by The Grosse Pointe Academy would take leisurely walks through this path as a respite during sunny afternoons. Many of the silver maple trees that lined the path back then continue to thrive today on GPA’s campus.


About The Grosse Pointe Academy
The Grosse Pointe Academy is an independent, coeducational day school serving children age 2 1/2 through Grade 8. We foster an inclusive environment that respects all cultures and religious beliefs. We seek to remain faithful to our heritage as a former Academy of the Sacred Heart and to those who through their Catholic faith and perseverance sought to preserve and enhance the legacy of this past for generations. Incorporated as a non-profit institution, The Grosse Pointe Academy is directed by a Board of Trustees working together to serve the Southeastern Michigan community.