McAllen and Edinburg join UTPA to celebrate donation of trees from TXU Energy
Posted: 11/03/2009
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The gift of 90 burr oak trees from TXU Energy to The University of Texas-Pan American and the Rio Grande Valley cities of Edinburg and McAllen was celebrated Nov. 3 at the UTPA campus as one that will keep on giving for generations to come.

Participants in a ceremony Nov. 3 celebrating the donation of 90 trees from TXU Energy to UTPA and the cities of McAllen and Edinburg were left to right Jon Bennett, TXU Energy's director of Community Relations; Javier Gonzalez, UTPA Environmental Awareness Club member; Marianella Franklin, UTPA director for Sustainability Programs; Charles A. Sorber, UTPA interim president; Representative Aaron Pena, District 40; Brad Bentsen, City of McAllen Parks superintendent; and Edward L. Kuprel, City of Edinburg forester.
University officials along with representatives from McAllen and Edinburg greeted Jon Bennett, TXU Energy director of Community Relations, and an 18-wheel truck carrying the 90 trees measuring 12 to 14 feet tall - 30 of which will go to each city and the remainder being planted at the University campus.

UTPA Interim President Charles A. Sorber called the gift of the trees a welcome addition to UTPA's campus landscaping master plan and its goal to provide and maintain a sustainable environment.

"These particular oaks will be enjoyed not just in the short term but by students for generations to come long after you and I are gone, they will be there for the people of this community and the people that populate this campus. This living gift we accept today from TXU Energy will provide another huge step in our direction to making our landscaping sustainable in addition to beautifying our campus," he said.

The trees were donated as part of TXU Energy's Committed to Community Growth program, which focuses on the company's commitment to environmental improvement, sustainability and going green efforts at Texas campuses and communities.

TXU Energy owns the largest urban tree farm in the nation operated by the Texas Trees Foundation and currently donates trees to any public property. Bennett said since the Committed to Community Growth program started in 2000, TXU Energy has dedicated more than 152,000 trees across the state.

"We are inside communities everywhere and across the Rio Grande Valley from Port Isabel to Rio Grande City," said Bennett, who also described TXU Energy's other efforts to help their energy consumers, such as energy conservation advice and assistance for low-income customers. "The burr oak tree is one of the largest, deepest rooted and strongest Texas trees there is. When you put that here in the Valley it will be here for generations and generations. Sustainability is not about us, it is about the future."

Accepting the trees at the ceremony from the City of Edinburg was Edward L. Kuprel, city forester, and from the City of McAllen, Parks Superintendent Brad Bentsen. Javier Gonzalez, a biology major and member of the University's Environmental Awareness Club, which initiated campus recycling and other green projects at UTPA, represented the students in thanking TXU Energy for their donation. Gonzalez said "some of life's best ideas and self realizations have come to light under the shade of a tree."

"It is a very exciting time to be attending UTPA as we embark on our journey toward a sustainable future. This university is part of our city, our county, our region and harbors our next generation. The green we plant here will spread and grow onto our community and then we can all taste from its fruit," he said.

The donation by TXU Energy on Nov. 3 of 30 trees each to UTPA and the cities of Edinburg and McAllen ended with a ceremonial planting of one of the burr oaks on the UTPA campus.
Described by arborists as a tall, fairly slow-growing tree highly desirable for windbreaks, shelterbelts and ornamental use, the burr oak is very adaptable to various soils and its mature height and spread are both approximately 80 feet. The trees donated to UTPA will be planted near the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex and the Physical Plant Building, both on the campus' western boundary.

Marianella Franklin, UTPA's director for Sustainability Programs, who moderated the donation ceremony, called the donation of trees an incredible gift toward UTPA's preservation of a healthy, vibrant and sustainable ecological system.

Appointed just this year, Franklin will direct the development and implementation of a comprehensive set of goals for a 10-year Sustainability Campus Action Plan covering operations, research teaching/curriculum, outreach and assessment. She will also chair a 23-member University Sustainability Council made up of University administrators and student, faculty and staff representatives who will establish and work on task forces to address the many sustainability areas to be met.

"We seek to engage the entire University - students, staff, and faculty - and all of South Texas in efforts to contribute with solutions to the environmental challenges we face here locally. Today we are here to accept a gift that will assist the University in addressing one of those challenges," she said.

TXU Energy is a market-leading competitive retailer that provides electricity and related services to more than 2.2 million electricity customers in Texas. For more information on TXU Energy and its Committed to Community Growth program, go to For more information on the sustainability initiatives at UTPA, contact Franklin at 956/292-7301 or via e-mail at