USC To Rededicate 1936 Olympic Trees

April 26, 2005

A pair of oak trees that were presented to some of USC's gold medal winners at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games will be rededicated in a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 30, in Associates Park on the USC campus.

The event will take place just prior to the annual USC-UCLA track and field dual meet, which begins at 11 a.m. in USC's Loker Stadium.

Oak seedlings were given to each gold medallist at the 1936 Summer Olympics to take home to their respective countries to plant and spread the Olympic message. Of the 24 gold medals won by U.S. athletes in 1936, only six oak trees are known to still exist in this country.

Two of these oak seedlings were planted in USC's Associates Park, between the Bovard Administration Building and the Physical Education Building. The tree given to Ken Carpenter, USC's 1936 gold medal discus thrower, still grows there. However, the oak from the victorious 4x100-meter relay team, which included USC students Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff, died of root rot in 2002 and has been replaced by a mature oak of the same variety. A new plaque, with the names of the four members of the relay team, is now at its base.

Because Jesse Owens, who along with Ralph Metcalfe was a member of that 4x100 relay team, won three other oaks at the 1936 Games, the team decided to award the oak seedlings to the two USC members. At least two of Owens' other Olympic trees still exist: one at his high school, James Ford Rhodes High School in Cleveland, Ohio, and the other at Ohio State University.

The only other Olympic tree in the Los Angeles area still known to exist was awarded to Cornelius Johnson for his gold medal in the high jump. It can be found in the backyard of a home on Hobart Street in Koreatown. Of the two others still known to exist nationwide, one was awarded to Forrest Towns for his victory in the 110-meter high hurdles and is located on the University of Georgia campus, and the other was awarded to John Woodruff for his win in the 800-meter run and is located at his high school in Connellsville, Pa.

The rededication of USC's two oak trees is being co-sponsored by USC men's and women's track and field program, the USC Division of Student Affairs, the USC Black Alumni Association and the Skull and Dagger Society.

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