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Former student honored posthumously with Sustainability Leadership Tree Award

Taiclet in Normandy
Jon Taiclet, former Penn State student, visited Normandy during an honors class trip to France in 2004. Image: Penn State
June 24, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, in conjunction with the Student Sustainability Advisory Council (SSAC), dedicated a dogwood in the Leadership Tree Award grove in memory of former Penn State student Jon Taiclet.

Taiclet, a 21-year-old geography honors student and sustainability leader, passed away in 2006 during his tenure as a student at Penn State. Clean energy was a passion of his, having just attended the PA Clean Energy Expo weeks before his passing. His sister, Angel Mazack, said he was known to educate those around him about sustainability issues. A former professor of Jon’s, Brent Yarnal, said “(Jon’s) positive, can-do spirit, and his love for and commitment to the environment were infectious. He was the heart and soul of that course, and his passing was profoundly felt by every one of us.”

Jon had hoped to eventually pursue a career in environmental work in Colorado or Arizona.

After his passing, a plaque commemorating his dedication to the environment was placed at the solar array near the Living Machine at the Sustainability Experience Center by his peers in 2006.

In April of this year, the Taiclet family had reached out to the Sustainability Institute in hopes of visiting the memorial on what would have been Jon’s 30th birthday. After days of searching, Sustainability Institute staff was unable to locate the plaque. Construction and redevelopment at the SEC had taken place over the years and unfortunately the plaque was misplaced during that time period. And so an order was placed for a new one to be permanently installed with a tree planted in his memory. In addition, Penn State’s Sustainability Student Advisory Council decided to award Jon posthumously with the Sustainability Leadership Tree Award.

“The Student Sustainability Tree Award is given each year to outstanding leaders in sustainability at Penn State, and Jon was just that,” said Pamela Gramlich, panhellenic representative, SSAC. “By awarding Jon with this tree, it is the hope of the SSAC that his legacy will not be forgotten at Penn State, and that it may inspire others to lead sustainable efforts in the same capacity as Jon.”

“By awarding Jon with this tree, it is the hope of the SSAC that his legacy will not be forgotten at Penn State, and that it may inspire others to lead sustainable efforts in the same capacity as Jon.”
-- Pamela Gramlich, SSAC representative

“If this award had existed during Jon’s too-brief time here, he surely would have been who they had in mind,” said Denice Wardrop, a former professor of Jon’s and the director of the Sustainability Institute. “His classmates were broken-hearted the next year, and I think of Jon often when I am trying to arouse engagement and caring about environmental issues -- mainly because he was one of the rare ones who needed no such reminder.”

On Jon’s birthday, May 29th, 2014, his favorite tree was planted in his memory at the MorningStar Solar Home. The Taiclet family, Sustainability Institute staff and a member of the SSAC were all in attendance at the dedication that included a reception with live music and light refreshments. Taiclet family plants tree

"I can't believe they did all of that for my Jon,” said Marc Taiclet, Jon’s father. “Words can’t convey what this means to us.”

“(Jon) was loved by his classmates as someone who spoke not to show how much he knew, which was quite a lot, but to move the whole class forward."
-- Denice Wardrop, Sustainability Institute director

“(Jon) was loved by his classmates as someone who spoke not to show how much he knew, which was quite a lot, but to move the whole class forward. Truly, a tree suits his memory and spirit -- so well-grounded and with a face turned toward the sun,” said Wardrop.

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