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Founders Day Tree Planting

The tradition of the senior class planting a tree for Founders Day began as a tribute to George Copenhaver, the first superintendent of Milton Hershey School. The first tree was planted on the grounds of the Junior-Senior High School (now Catherine Hall) in memory of Mr. Copenhaver on Nov. 15, 1938, the date Milton and Catherine Hershey signed the Deed of Trust establishing Milton Hershey School in 1909. Mr. Copenhaver died in February of that year, and the older students decided that planting a tree by the senior class would be an appropriate way to honor their teacher and mentor.

Founders Day Senior Tree Planting in 1984-85

The MHS Senior Class Tree Planting Ceremony in 1984-85 featuring MHS President Pete Gurt ’85 and classmates.

The first oak tree planted in honor of Milton S. Hershey occurred 75 years ago on Nov. 15, 1946, the year after Mr. Hershey died. The tradition continued at Old Senior Hall until the opening of Founders Hall on Sept. 13, 1970 and at Founders Hall until the opening of Memorial Hall on Nov. 15, 1995. That year, the honor of planting an oak tree was transferred from the senior class to the kindergarteners at Memorial Hall—the thought being that these children could watch their tree grow during their years at MHS. In 2003, the senior class began planting their own tree at Founders Hall once again.

MHS students then and now tree planting ceremony

Left to right: Class of 1970 and Class of 2020 at their Senior Class Tree Planting Ceremony.

Today, the commemoration of the signing of the Deed of Trust by Milton and Catherine Hershey is a week-long celebration. Students in pre-kindergarten will plant a tree at Memorial Hall and the senior class planted their tree, marked with a plaque, at Founders Hall.

This year, the class of 2022 was treated to a special breakfast celebrating their proficiency/advanced scores on the ELA Keystone Exams as juniors. Eleventh grade English teacher, Emily Gallo, told the students they should celebrate and be proud of their achievements. She compared them to professional athletes who train, practice, and endure hardships for their goals and then celebrate their successes.

Milton Hershey School Class of 2022 Senior Class Tree Planting Ceremony

The MHS Class of 2022 participating in their Senior Class Tree Planting Ceremony.

At a Founders Day celebration dinner in 1937, Mr. Hershey is quoted as saying, “One of the days of the year I enjoy the most is to see the results of our school.” Milton Hershey persevered through hardships and would be proud of the class of 2022 for doing the same.

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