USC News

Menu Search

Campus Landmark: Good Wood Turns Into Trojan Lore

Class members paid $10 each to transport a log from the petrified forest in Arizona to USC.

Photo/Allison Engel

Here’s a little tale about posterity and why carving your initials in a tree sometimes isn’t such a terrible idea. The tree in question here is petrified. It’s a log, actually, and it stands behind Doheny Library, not far from the Nazarian Pavilion.

In 1887, USC’s graduating class numbered exactly 10 scholars. One of its professors, John Dickinson, persuaded each student to pony up $10 to transport a log from the petrified forest in Arizona to campus. (This was before the site became the Petrified Forest National Park in 1906 and began protecting its trees.) All 10 complied. The log became the class gift, and it was placed inside the first brick building on campus, the College of Liberal Arts building, later known as Old College.

A brass plate crediting the class with the gift was attached to the log with screws, but it didn’t last long. So the class hired a stonemason to make their attribution stick. He chiseled the figures ’87 into the log. Imagine their surprise, then, when years later, members of the class visited campus only to find a bronze tablet affixed to the log stating that Dickinson had presented the petrified prize to USC.

The group, determined to set the record straight, then had a new bronze tablet prepared with this inscription: “This section of petrified tree from the Arizona forest was presented to their Alma Mater by the members of the class of 1887 under the direction of Prof. John Dickinson of the department of geology.”

That tablet remains affixed to the log today.

Campus Landmark: Good Wood Turns Into Trojan Lore

Top stories on USC News