Tennessee Tech dedicates arboretum to former dean

An extraordinary life of service dedicated to "the beautification of God's earth through sight and sound" deserves a memorial that will do the same. That's why Tennessee Technological University and the Cookeville Tree Board chose to honor former dean Gerald Coorts with a memorial arboretum. And what better day to do so than Arbor Day.

Coorts was dean of Tennessee Tech's College of Agriculture and Home Economics from 1985 until his death in June 1994. The Cookeville Tree Board, of which Coorts was a member, proposed the memorial and will plant the first official tree -- a white beech -- in Coorts' honor.

Current Agriculture Dean Don Elkins, who worked with Coorts at Southern Illinois University before coming to Tennessee Tech, says an arboretum is a fitting tribute. "He was a horticulturist, and I can't think of anything he would have loved more than an arboretum with plants," says Elkins.

The dedication takes place Friday, March 7, with a reception at 3 p.m. in room 122 of South Hall, a dedication ceremony at 3:30 p.m. in room 104 of South Hall and the tree planting at 4 p.m. on the South Hall Lawn.

The arboretum will span the area from South Hall to Derryberry Hall bordering on Dixie Avenue with a stone memorial at one end and a metal plaque at the other. The stone reads, "Dr. Coorts' life was a dedication to the beautification of God's earth through sight and sound."

From the memorials, passers-by will learn that in addition to his tenure as dean, Coorts was a member of the Tennessee Tech Garden Club, the Cookeville Rose Society and the Cookeville Tree Board, as well as president of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Board. He was president of the Tennessee Council on Agriculture and served on the USDA Commission on Higher Education.

Last year, Coorts' family established the Gerald Coorts Memorial Scholarship. Coorts himself was the first in his family to attend college, and he did so with the help of scholarships. After earning both a bachelor's and a master's degree at the University of Missouri and a doctorate from the University of Illinois -- all in plant soil science --, Coorts devoted his career to education.

Before joining Tennessee Tech in 1985, Coorts served for 17 years at Southern Illinois University, eventually becoming chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Science. During that time, he received an Obelisk Award for outstanding teaching at SIU. He also taught at the University of Rhode Island and Purdue University.

Everyone is welcome to attend the dedication on March 7. For more information, call the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at 615/372-3149.