The History Department planted a tree on campus in honor of Professor Gabrielle M. Spiegel who retired in June 2022. Professor Spiegel served as president of the American Historical Association, twice led the department as its chair, served as dean of faculty, was the founder and force behind the Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellows program, participated in more than 100 committees at every level of the institution, inspired her students and junior colleagues as teacher and mentor, and transformed the field of Medieval history with her innovative scholarship.
The tree was planted thanks to generous donations from Professor Spiegel’s colleagues and friends and with the further support of the KSAS deans’ office, Chris Brown (Director of Facilities and Planning Management), the Development Office, Lisa Enders (History Department) and Randy Widomski (Grounds Services Manager) and his team. It is located near the breezeway at the south-front entrance of Gilman Hall. On January 25, a group of Professor Spiegel’s local friends and supporters gathered with Professor Spiegel and her daughter Alix to formally introduce the tree to its public and to unveil the plaque recognizing Professor Spiegel’s contributions as scholar, teacher, mentor, and colleague.
The tree is a Cornelian Cherry, a small but resilient type and one of significant literary and historical reputation. Cornelian Cherries are renowned for blooming early in the spring, fruiting late in the autumn, and flowering throughout a long lifetime. They are also famous for the hardness and utility of their wood, and for the abundance and flavor of their gem-like fruit which can be made into cordials, liqueurs, tarts, preserves, and sorbets. Cornelian Cherries are also relatively unusual in North America, although they were often found in medieval gardens. In each of these regards, the tree embodies Professor Spiegel’s resilience, generosity, hospitality, and service. The plaque reads: “Planted in Honor of Gabrielle M. Spiegel. A Visionary Scholar, Mentor and Leader in History.”
Professor Spiegel made many lasting contributions to the department and the university. It seems fitting, given her love of plants, that her contributions have, with the help and support of her colleagues and friends, been given permanent material form.