PHOTO CAPTION: VSU graduate Melanie Blanton stands under the Graduation Tree while holding a 1982 Valdosta Daily Times article about her great-great-grandmother, Alice Herrin Davis, who helped to plant the tree in 1914.
Valdosta State University Press Release:
When Melanie Blanton walked across the stage on May 5 to receive a Bachelor of Science in environmental geosciences, she was continuing a family legacy that dates back more than a century.
Blanton’s great-great-grandmother, Alice Herrin Davis, was one of three women who made up the first graduating class of South Georgia State Normal College (now VSU) in 1914. That year, Davis and her two fellow graduates planted a live oak tree — The Graduation Tree — at the Patterson Street entrance to the school.
“I’ve always heard my parents talk about that tree, and because of where I parked for class, I’ve walked under it almost every day,” Blanton said.
Blanton was raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but moved to South Georgia as a teenager and graduated from Lowndes High School. Her parents are Brooke and Steve Blanton of Hahira, Georgia.
“The tree and what it represents is a really cool legacy, and my parents are really proud of it,” she said.
Blanton said a couple highlights from her time at VSU were enjoying the picturesque campus and taking part in basketball and softball intramurals with Campus Recreation. She was also a member of the Geoscience Student Society.
She has found employment with The Scruggs Company in Hahira, where she will handle quality control in the construction company’s labs.
Blanton said earning her degree and moving forward into the next chapter of her life is like “a breath of fresh air.”
The Graduation Tree is the first stop on the Historical Plants Tour, which highlights the unique plants and plant-related places of VSU’s heritage. Videos explaining the location and significance of each stop can be accessed at https://www.valdosta.edu/