Washington and Lee’s front lawn, bookended as it is by the iconic Colonnade and historic Lee Chapel, is frequently lauded as the most breathtaking view
on campus, and one that alumni miss seeing on a daily basis.
Now, two enterprising W&L
students are making it possible
for people to take home little
pieces of this favorite spot —
and even plant them on their
own front lawns.
Dashiell Dericks ’ 18, who counts silviculture as a
longtime hobby, grew 30 white oak tree saplings from acorns
he collected on the Colonnade in autumn 2016. He and his
business partner, Jesse Evans ’ 20, are selling their “Colonnade
Oaks” through the University Store, complete with a certificate of authenticity.
“Dash came to me last fall to discuss his Colonnade sap-
lings idea and I absolutely loved it,” said Jeff Shay, the Rupert
A. Johnson Jr. Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership
at W&L. “It is a great business idea that is 100 percent execut-
able by a college student like Dash who is passionate about
both silviculture and entrepreneurship.”
Dericks, who holds the W&L record in discus, grew up
on a farm in Indiana. “I spent a lot of time wandering in the
woods,” he said. As a kid, he read books about plant identifi-
cation and perfected the task of growing seedlings.
In fall 2016, Dericks noted the abundance of acorns on
the front lawn. He gathered them and carried them back to
his room in the FIJI house, where he planted them. He babied
the trees throughout the academic year, even taking them
home during breaks.
Dericks’ business partner, Evans, is not new to entrepre-
neurship. As an eighth-grade student in Jacksonville, Florida,
he and his best friend started a dog-walking and pet-sitting
Dashiell “Dash” Dericks ’ 18 (left) and business partner
Jesse Evans ’ 20 are selling saplings grown from Colonnade
oak trees in a new venture that marries Dericks’ love of
silviculture and his fondness for W&L.
Heart and Soil
business called Happy Hounds. This summer, he intends to
start a web consulting business.
While Dericks grew the trees, Evans handled the market-
ing aspect of Colonnade Oaks. His first priority was to gather
information about the trees
from which the acorns fell.
senior assistant in Special
Collections, put Evans in
touch with Arthur Bartens-
tein of ABL Landscape Architecture in Lexington. Together,
they determined that the two oak trees in question were
planted sometime between 1855 and 1923. “One is certainly
over 100 years old and the other is at least 80,” Evans said. “One
of them is from about the time Robert E. Lee was here.”
Evans also worked with the University Store to determine
a price point ($55 per tree) and a sales and marketing plan.
The store helped them put together informational pamphlets
and certificates of authenticity to go with the trees. Dericks
and Evans sold most of their first crop of trees during Alumni
Weekend, but they plan to plant more this fall, perhaps adding
some maple and ash seedlings from Colonnade trees.
“By cultivating a noble oak from those rooted along the
grounds of the Colonnade,” Dericks wrote, “I share the ability
for people to watch a true form of W&L’s life and soul thrive
on the property of their own home.”
Shay agreed: “I look forward to seeing alumni jump at
the opportunity to bring home a certified piece of W&L’s rich
history to plant in their backyards, and I already have a place
picked out in my backyard to plant a few Colonnade Oaks
If you are interested in ordering a Colonnade Oak, please
contact the University Store at 540-458-8633 or email store@
wlu.edu. — Lindsey Nair