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2010 News Releases

Trees planted on campus in memory of Longwood professor

April 23, 2010

Chrissy Ferguson, president of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the criminal justice fraternity, speaks at the dedication of two trees in memory of Dr. Kelley Chrissy Ferguson, president of Lambda Alpha Epsilon, the criminal justice fraternity, speaks at the dedication of two trees in memory of Dr. Kelley

Two holly trees have been planted on the Longwood University campus in memory of Dr. Debra S. Kelley, a sociology professor slain in September 2009.

In a project initiated by Lambda Alpha Epsilon (LAE), the criminal justice fraternity, the trees were planted April 21 on either side of the entrance to Ruffner Hall. Dr. Kelley was responsible for the formation of LAE. The trees, both more than seven feet fall, replace a pair of holly trees lost in the Great Fire of 2001.

"Your presence is deeply and sincerely missed by everyone here at Longwood," Chrissy Ferguson, LAE president, said of Dr. Kelley in her remarks at a tree-planting ceremony. "Not a day goes by that I don't hear someone speak of your name. I and others consistently share memories of you inside and outside the classroom. You created our chapter of LAE, and we could never have it go on without you. You have educated and touched the hearts of so many students in this department (Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies) that you will never be forgotten. You will always be my personal inspiration for success as a woman in the criminal justice field."

Ferguson, a senior from Richmond, called Dr. Kelley a role model for her and other female students in a field in which they're outnumbered by male students, one who provided inspiration in a "friendly and encouraging way." She noted that Dr. Kelley's "enthusiasm is at least partially responsible" for the increasing number of female students in criminal justice at Longwood.

"You constantly reminded me, as well as other female students, of the vast opportunities and career paths available to women in the criminal justice field," said Ferguson, who this fall will enter graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University where, as she noted, Dr. Kelley earned her bachelor's degree. "You never once let any of us think that we couldn't succeed simply because of the gender stigmas. Your success in the criminal justice field provided me with hope and confidence that I will be able to fulfill my goals."

Dr. John Barbrey, assistant professor of criminal justice and director of the Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Programs, called Ferguson "the person most responsible" for the idea to plant trees in Dr. Kelley's memory. In the ceremony, Dr. Barbrey read two often-quoted Bible passages: the one from the Book of Ecclesiastes that begins "To everything there is a season," and the Beatitudes from the Book of Matthew.

"I decided to read from the Bible because she was a Methodist," he said, glancing across High Street toward Farmville United Methodist Church, where Dr. Kelley was a member, "and because I'm a Methodist, too."

Students shovel dirt into the hole for the one of trees planted in Dr. Kelley’s memory
Students shovel dirt around one of trees planted in Dr. Kelley's memory

After Dr. Barbrey and Ferguson spoke, he invited students who knew Dr. Kelley to share their thoughts, then invited students to shovel dirt into the hole around the tree where the ceremony was held. The ceremony was also attended by faculty members and students from the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies; Dr. Chuck Ross, dean of the Cook-Cole College of Arts and Sciences; and members of the Sociology Club.

The trees are Nellie Stevens Hollies, which Elaine Rush, a horticulturalist with Landscaping and Grounds Management, described as "very fast growing, resistant to almost everything, and very adaptable." They were purchased that morning at Hudgins Nursery in Chesterfield County, which gave a discount after learning what the trees would be used for. The purchase of the trees was funded by donations to the Longwood Foundation for the Debra Kelley Memorial from colleagues, friends, former students, and LAE.

"We thank Mary Louise Waller and Bill Westerhoff for their guidance on selecting an evergreen tree species and planting site that will be restorative both to our students, due to its symbolism and location in front of Ruffner, and to Longwood," said Dr. Barbrey. "We also thank the Facilities Management staff and Elaine Rush for helping with the installation, and Dick Bratcher for last-minute event coordination."

Dr. Kelley, 53, associate professor of sociology, had taught at Longwood since 1994. She was a 2002 recipient of the Maude Glenn Raiford Award.

"I had gotten so used to being able to stop by your office just for a friendly hello," Ferguson said, "and perhaps now I feel as if I may have taken your graciousness for granted. Every time I walk by your office, I can't help but take a double look and even pause for a moment. Everything still seems very unreal and so sudden. We plant these trees not only in your remembrance but also to serve as a token of your life that will be with us for many years to come."