Reflecting on the Avenue
To celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Avenue of the Oaks, alumni and friends of the College shared their memories of the canopy of live oaks.
For more than 60 years, the Avenue has been the traditional site for the College’s commencement ceremonies, and thousands of graduates have processed under the oaks that Roger Stewart planted in 1850.
The first graduation ceremony on the Avenue was held in 1949. Prior to 1930, commencements were held at the old Battle House auditorium in downtown Mobile, and from 1930 to 1949 in Byrne Library on the College campus.
“My favorite memory is from freshman year, 1999. Our class was the first to have a convocation ceremony, and it was held on the Avenue on a hot August afternoon. Father Lucey gave his now infamous ‘shipwreck’ speech, and we all sat captivated under the old oaks, ready to embark on this great new adventure of college life. Fast-forward a few years, and there we all were, sitting yet again under those same oaks, but this time as college graduates.
The Avenue for me symbolizes the beginning and ending of my undergraduate career at Spring Hill, and in December of next year when I receive my master’s degree from Spring Hill, I will once again return to the Avenue to participate in graduation exercises in the spring. The Avenue of the Oaks symbolizes the strength in faith, community and service to others that the College was founded on so many years ago!”– Erin Tucker ’05 Loxley, AL
“From the very first trip on the Avenue of the Oaks to the last on graduation, I felt those majestic oak trees hugging me with a sense of security and welcoming. Many times through the years of attending classes – some were tougher than others – I thought about quitting. The image of ‘Walking the Avenue’ under those gentle oak trees with a clear blue sky filled with white puffy clouds lured me back to find the strength to carry on.
On that day in May of 1990, the sky was picture-postcard blue and little white clouds dotted the sky. There was a mix of pride, joy and sorrow in the air. The oak trees swayed with pride as another class triumphantly walked from Byrne Memorial Library across the field and up the Avenue to receive their diplomas. Every name was answered by a cacophony of cheers, applause, and shivering leaves as all things merged to propel us forward to a new life with the vibrant memory of ‘Walking the Avenue of Oaks’ on graduation day.”– Cece Redmond ’90 Mobile, AL
– John J. Robb ’08
“Avenue of the Oaks is much more than just a great graduation venue. It's also an extraordinary place to run. It’s no coincidence that the Avenue is Mile 19 on the First Light Marathon route, when many runners are hitting the dreaded energy ‘wall.’ I always look forward to the oxygen pouring from those massive oaks. It’s like wearing a big, old organic oxygen mask that gives me a natural boost to the finish line.”
– Gail Davenporte ’98
“My most favorable memory was as I crossed the stage to receive my diploma. My husband had a series of fireworks stations throughout the audience to go off as I crossed. It was the most touching moment and people were amazed. One person asked, ‘All that for you?’ I said, ‘Why not? I love Spring Hill College and what my education has done to enrich my life.’”
– Kryket Murray
Spanish Fort, AL
“At almost age 40, I still walk my children and will walk my future grandchildren down the majestic Avenue of the Oaks while sharing memories from the early ’90s of my own walks from my Toolen Hall dorm, showing my youngsters why I always preferred the scenic route to my Spring Hill College classes.”
“I attended Spring Hill one year in 1956/’57 before transferring to the University of Alabama. In that year and for most of my life, I have lived adjacent to the College. The Avenue of Oaks has always provided me with the most restful and peaceful setting I know of to exercise, walk with family and friends, and sort out life’s problems. It is also a reminder of how lucky we are to be blessed with such a good neighbor as the College and all it offers to its neighbors and the community.
The Stewartfield house is another reminder of the Avenue of Oaks and what it means to me and my family. In 1915 my recently widowed grandmother, Mrs. Nelson W. Perry, came home from church with her four children, Louise, Watts, Donna Bea (my mother) and Dorothy (Baby) one Sunday morning and found her house on fire. With no water pressure or fire department to speak of, the house could not be saved, but the College sent over the students and they were able to save most of their belongings. The president of College then graciously moved my family next door into the Stewartfield house for a year or more until my grandmother was able to rebuild on the McGregor Avenue property. I currently live with my family in one of the houses my grandmother built after the fire.
Along with other family members also living on the original property, we greatly value the College as our neighbor and the Avenue of Oaks as a very special place in our hearts.”– Michael Perry Feore ’60 Spring Hill, AL
– Bill Ellis ’05
Smoke Rise, AL
“In 1995 I took my first course towards obtaining a Master of Theology degree. Ten years later, at the age of 60, I completed all my requirements and obtained my degree. The one factor that motivated me the most during those years was my desire to march through the Avenue of Oaks at graduation. On May 8, 2005, my dream was fulfilled – a memorable event shared with my grandchildren who were also awed by the big live oaks.”
“After serving as custodial director with National Management Resources for four years, my memory is the yearly setting up for graduation. Even though it was a lot of hard work and hours, seeing it during graduation made it all worthwhile.”
– Bill Trimble Philadelphia, PA