Senior Retrospective: Nathan Tauger

What I’ll remember most about Vassar is my friends, the library, and hopefully some of my classes. I think people are mistaken when they assert that things that endure are of greater value, whether those things are works of art, ideas, or memories.

The majority of all organisms that have ever lived do not keep. If conditions are right, their skeletons, shells, or leaf imprints might stick around, but that’s it, and everyone knows what those look like anyways.

In the past few weeks a lot of plants at Vassar have bloomed. I might not remember stopping to find stamens and carpels on the dogwoods near the library twenty years from now. But that’s okay. Here we learn to appreciate the ephemeral.

The European Weeping Beech at the end of Josselyn’s lawn: Fagus sylvatica. Within our first week at Vassar our student fellows told us that this is the sex tree. There was a bare mattress inside the branches. My friends did illicit things there, never sex.

There are tall trees that line Raymond avenue. Their branches curve upwards over the street. If you look at them right while they have leaves, it feels like looking through a tunnel. The tunnel is one of the harbingers of Vassar spring; the winter’s reign fades as it forms.

The sprawled conifer outside Swift: Cephalotaxus harringtonia. For a few days at the start of Spring, pollen appears under the needles. When a breeze or botany instructor brushes a branch, the pollen expands into a cloud resembling a released handful of glitter. It looks nice if you don’t get allergies.

The six Japanese Maples, Acer japonica, on the middle of the quad. They exemplify what’s best about each season. Their curves complement one another’s, as do their colors in the fall.

Jewett kids might tell you they look best from the 9th floor, where you can see the whole quad. They actually look best as you approach the middle of the quad from the central path, or on the way to the deec from the library at sunset. There were originally seven, to represent the seven sisters. I don’t know which college fell.

The Ginkgo biloba between the academic quad and the College Center. The fleshy outer layer of the seed smells bad. Everyone steps on them and then complains about it in class.

The eager amongst Organic Chemistry students can tell you that it’s because of Butyric Acid, a compound also found in rancid butter and vomit.

Only female G. biloba can produce seeds, but they need pollen from males to do so. The only male G. biloba at Vassar line the exterior of the library. The older classes would tell you that the males belong there, outside of campus.

There are spruce trees that start budding around May: mostly Norway Spruce, Picea abies, but also Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika, and Colorado Blue Spruce, Picea pungens. On the end of some branches grow cones, and on others short bright green extensions, no more than an inch or two long. Our class is those protrusions. We are new, young, and easily seen. Next year we’ll look indistinguishable from the rest of the branch, save for the bright green tips directly in front of us. This is how the tree grows. This is how Vassar grows.

I won’t remember every tree I liked on campus. I won’t remember every class or person or book I liked either. Everything was still worth it.

Special thanks to Jeff Horst for his botanical erudition.


— Nathan Tauger is a biology major and a proud member of team student for the 2014 Student-Faculty Basketball game. He was Online Editor of the Miscellany News for a year and a half, and an editor of the Vassar Chronicle for two years. He has a soft spot in his heart for Vassar After-School Tutoring.

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