In conjunction with my arrival this spring as the new president of the University, I was asked a number of questions so that members of the Methodist community could get to know me better. One of the questions had to do with wanting to know some of my favorite books, and one of those I listed was The Man Who Planted Trees, a story by Jean Giono. The man featured in this story, Elzeard Bouffier, spent his life anonymously planting acorns across the countryside in southern France, bringing life to a desolate landscape for the benefit of generations that would follow him. Giono, using eloquent and moving prose, shares the story of this one man’s dedication and generosity that spanned many years.
Today I was fortunate to preside over the dedication of the Hendricks Science Complex and a ceremony that recognized the 27-year tenure of President Elton Hendricks and his wife, Jerry. Here we have another “man who planted trees” spanning three decades, bringing life to our upper campus and replacing the sand spurs with trees transplanted from the lower campus along the Cape Fear River. President Hendricks was likewise dedicated to his task, and quietly and effectively transformed the Methodist University landscape for future generations to enjoy.
One of my favorite sayings from an anonymous source is that “a good book reads you.” As I think about the stories of Jean Giono and Elton Hendricks, I can’t help but reflect on the service of my predecessor and the impact he has had on Methodist University. I also know that as president, I will seek the assistance of those around me in developing the present landscape, both physical and intellectual, to benefit future generations of Methodist students. Thankfully we have someone, the man who planted trees at Methodist, who has shown us the way through his selfless acts and inspiration.