By Emmy Wolfe, Caelyn Jischke & Hailey Oskey
A fifty-year tradition at UW-Green Bay is no more.
The “shoe tree” has been an iconic destination for prospective students on campus tours for over a century. It is a place where graduating students can leave their mark on this campus through the symbol of their shoes. Following the Spring 2022 commencement ceremony, the shoe tree tradition on UWGB will be taken down to contribute to a more environmentally friendly campus. Vice-Chancellor for University Inclusivity & Student Affairs, Corey King, said, “The shoe tree will be coming down late May or early June.
The decision to take down the UWGB tradition took six months to make. King commented, “In working with university facilities and related content experts, the determination was made that the shoe trees are dead.” While the university has made this decision, current students and alumni are feeling the effects. UWGB alumni Sydney Gille, class of ‘20, threw a pair of white converse in the shoe tree when she graduated. Gille mentioned that the end of this tradition has made her sad, “It’s something a lot of people look forward to and one of the only traditions for a GB student.” While the shoe tree will be taken down soon, students are still planning to partake in this long-standing tradition at UWGB. Julia Doenges, class of ‘22, first saw the tree on a campus tour, “I am still going to participate because it is tradition! I pass by the tree every day and have been waiting to throw shoes up there.” For younger students who won’t have an opportunity to throw their shoes up in the tree, there is still another opportunity for them.
In history, there have been a total of three shoe trees, one of which was struck by lightning, and the others have decayed and died due to bug infestations from the exposed bark. When shoes are swinging in the wind, they are constantly brushing against the tree bark, and over time this removes the bark leaving the tree completely exposed to anything that could lead to decay. There are students that understand the purpose of the shoe being taken down. Doenges said, “I think that the new mural tradition is a great idea and will become a beautiful symbol for GB students.” The new tradition has an anticipated release date following the Fall 2022 commencement ceremony. Graduates can “leave their mark” on this campus through their thumbprint, which will symbolize a leaf on a tree mural. Gille commented, “I think it will take a lot of time, and eventually it will. The tree holds history and represents all those that came before. The mural is new and has no history.”