When Moonyeen Holle came to Winona State University in her 20s, she had to give a speech for a class.
She fainted -- twice -- and had to give the speech again the next day.
When Moonyeen came back to WSU on Friday, Arbor Day, to give a speech, her legs didn't give out, but she didn't abandon emotion, either, as she spoke of the love she had for her campus, and the honor she felt in having WSU's outdoor arboretum named in honor of the donation she and her late husband gave to create an endowed arboretum fund on campus.
"I'm honored to be a part of today's celebrations," she said. "To be a part of this university we have such strong feelings about."
Richard and Moonyeen were both alumni of the university as well as teachers, before moving on to careers in business and real estate. Richard Holle also spent time with United States Army and the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C. before the couple moved back to Minnesota to live in Rushford in 2002.
Richard passed away in 2011, and after his death, Moonyeen worked with former WSU vice president for university advancement Jim Schmidt to create a restricted endowment fund for the arboretum. Proceeds from the endowment may be used to purchase trees, plants and educational materials for the arboretum, as Moonyeen has said her desire is to further the educational benefits of WSU's outdoor space.
"Winona State has embraced this beautiful community," WSU president Scott Olson said at the Richard and Moonyeen Holle Arboretum dedication ceremony Friday morning. "We're thankful that the Holles' generosity will let the campus stay green and beautiful for all of us in perpetuity."
WSU's Holle Arboretum is the product of a campus beautification project that began in the 1990s under the leadership of former president Darrell Krueger. Today, the campus boasts more than 900 trees on the 64-acre main campus, featuring more than 100 species, with efforts to feature at least one member of Minnesota's 52 tree species in the arboretum.
The arboretum also features trees from Japan, China and Korea, and work is ongoing to digitally tag each species of tree on campus to allow visitors to access information on the trees and arboretum through smart devices and during walking tours of the campus. As part of the endowment agreement with the Holle family, WSU has formed and grown the university's arboretum committee, and is currently looking to fill an open arboretum director position.
The committee has been working for a number of years to apply for the National Registry of Arboretums Tree Campus USA recognition. Because of stringent application requirements, WSU professor and land steward Bruno Borsari has said, the support for the arboretum from alumni like the Holles, volunteers and WSU faculty and staff will help as the university works toward that honor for the campus' trees.
“This is a great distinctive feature for WSU,” Borsari said in an interview. “The arboretum also is an open-space classroom and laboratory. It is open to all and conducive to making connections among disciplines.”
Those connections and educational opportunities were on display during the university's Arbor Day celebrations. Along with the dedication ceremony for the Holles, WSU hosted several groups of Jefferson Elementary School second-grade students, who helped plant a shagbark hickory tree outside of Phelps Hall, along with participating in a puppet show on pollinators and planting seedlings in the WSU greenhouse.
"This whole campus is awesome," Moonyeen said. "I'm an outside person and love the outdoors. These opportunities give students and visitors the chance to do something hands-on."