NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was a somber day for Vanderbilt University. One of its majestic trees on campus died, and it’s now being taken down. But this isn’t just any tree; it’s older than the university itself. 

The mighty burr oak Garland Hall provided shade and beauty since the first Vanderbilt student walked this campus.

“It’s just so tough to see something so important to Vanderbilt’s campus fall. It’s just sad for students,” said Skylar Hooley, a sociology major.

Now, all that’s left are chopped up tree limbs and a massive stump.

“Time does not forgive anything, even the tree. That’s the cycle of nature, I guess, “said student Luis Serrano Lora.

Many of Vanderbilt’s stately trees have been planted by arborists over the school’s history, but not this one. Known as the Bicentennial Oak, reaching nearly 100 feet into the sky, this one was already here even when this land was nothing more than tree-less prairie. Vanderbilt’s landscape architect, James Moore, said it’s estimated to be 250-years-old.

“It was a witness to the entire university’s history,” said Moore. “This is the oldest of the old. It’s really the only tree that we had that pre-dated the university.”

And Moore does not take its passing lightly.

“I was really sad. I grew up in the neighborhood. Vanderbilt was a backyard to me,” said Moore. “Oaks are sort of slow and steady. But, even they reach their limit. And in this case, there were natural causes, decay, that eventually caught up with it.”

The oak’s limbs once provided students shade. Now, limb by limb, arborists will decide what they can salvage and reuse. Whether there is a plaque placed here or a new oak planted, everyone agrees that Vanderbilt’s Bicentennial Oak can not be forgotten.

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“I want this to be a meaningful space that our students continue to love, make memories throughout their years, and come back and visit,” said Moore.

“I think the important thing is not to forget that there was something in here,” said Serrano Lora. “And maybe we can restore it with a new one.”