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Alexandre lives on!

mercredi, 18 novembre 2015   (2 Comments)
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A ceremony in the main courtyard at La Grande Boissière yesterday marked the planting of "Alexandre" almost 40 years after its namesake, also an American black walnut (Juglans nigra), was chopped down. Students, parents, staff (current and former) and alumni were present for this special event.

The original Alexandre was removed by the cantonal authorities in 1976, having become unsafe due to disease. It had stood watch over La Grande Boissière for around two centuries, long before Ecolint took up residence in 1929.

Planting of Alexandre

The planting of a descendant of the original tree is a project that was initially proposed some years ago by the then Campus Principal Jean-Guy Carpentier. It was made possible by the donation in 2012, via the Central Committee of the Alumni Association, of a bequest from the late Henry Baum (LGB '36). Jean-Guy, who retired earlier this year, returned the school to witness the planting of the tree, which was done in the presence of Ecolint's first student Loïs Meyhoffer. (Mme Meyhoffer's name is the first listed in the school's first registration book dating from 1924. She will turn 97 years-old on 19 November 2015.)

UN TEMOIN ECOLINTIEN

Foundation Archivist Alejandro Rodriguez-Giovo (himself an alumnus of the school) described the planting of this tree as "a historic event". His speech traced the history of the original Alexandre, from its planting 250 years ago on the instructions of Jean-Robert Tronchin, Geneva's Procureur général, through the residency at La Grande Boissière, a century later, of Queen Victoria’s aunt, Grand Duchess Anna Fyodorovna, and on to the tree's demise in 1976.

This latter event was witnessed by Vicky Stereva, a close friend of Loïs Meyhoffer, whose words were quoted in Alex's speech:

"Il laissera un grand vide dans le parc, car il occupait un vaste espace, surtout au temps où il était en pleine vigueur. Si les élèves de l'Ecolint l'ont nommé Alexandre, c'est parce que l'envergure de cet arbre les avait impressionnés (il fallait au moins quatre enfants se tenant par la main pour entourer son énorme tronc). Je me souviens d'avoir mangé ses noix quand j'étais gamine, mais personne n'avait réussi à grimper dessus. C'était l'arbre le plus majestueux de la campagne de la Grande Boissière, et aussi celui dont les feuilles tardaient le plus à sortir au printemps et tombaient les dernières en automne."

The complete speech is available for download here.

PLAQUE UNVEILED

Mme Meyhoffer was invited to throw some soil at the base of the tree, thus symbolically at least assisting with its planting, and to then unveil a plaque specially commissioned to mark the occasion. The new tree is also partly encircled by a bench that will allow generations to come to sit beneath its spreading branches.


Loïs Meyhoffer throwing soil onto the roots of the new Alexandre; also pictured are Alejandro Rodriguez-Giovo (Foundation Archivist, left) and Eoghan O'Sullivan (Head of Alumni Relations).

Ecolint's Director General Vicky Tuck brought the ceremony to a close, expressing her appreciation to the Central Committee of the Alumni Association (including its new chair Gisela Vargas (LGB '90)) and to all of those who had brought this project to fruition. She was pleased to see representatives of the whole Ecolint community, including its Governing Board, in attendance.

See also

>> Speech by Alejandro Rodriguez-Giovo
>> "Alexandre n'est plus", from Alumni Association Newsletter (May 1976)
>> AlumBlog: In principium erat Loïs

[Click the images for larger versions]


(Left to right) Campus and Secondary Principal at La Grande Boissière Conrad Hughes, Ecolint Director General Vicky Tuck, Loïs Meyhoffer, and Jean-Guy Carpentier, the former Campus Principal.


The plaque that was unveiled by Loïs Meyhoffer.


(Left to right) Alejandro Rodriguez-Giovo (LGB '72), Karin Raton (LGB '70, former co-chair of the Alumni Association Central Comittee), Loïs Meyhoffer (Honorary Member of the Committee), Jean-Guy Carpentier (former LGB Campus Principal), Gisela Vargas (LGB '90, new chair of the Committee), Theo Gill (LGB '69, secretary of the Committee), and Eoghan O'Sullivan (Head of Alumni Relations). 


Photo from inside the front cover of the 1976 LGB Yearbook. 


Photo from inside the back cover of the 1976 LGB Yearbook.

 
Photo of Alexandre in front of the Grande Bâtiment, taken in the 1960s by François Martin. (Courtesy of Robin Dormer, LGB '69)).


The new Alexandre in the autumn sunshine on Wednesday 18 November 2015.


Next Alumni Events

>> Escalade Dinners 2015
>> Geneva Escalade Dinner - Wednesday 9 December
>> B.E.E.R. - Thursday 17 December

Comments...

Community Administrator says...
Posted mercredi, 2 décembre 2015
Nice story Andrew. Thanks for sharing - and regards to YOUR Alexandre! Eoghan
Andrew Munday says...
Posted mercredi, 2 décembre 2015
I remember very well the felling of Alexandre in 1976. I have preciously kept a small piece of wood from that venerable tree ant to this day it is still with me! Long live the new Alexandre. My son is (not altogether coincidentally) named Alexandre! Andrew Munday

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