WRA’s dazzling illuminated ‘bicentennial’ oak is gift to Hudson

by Judy Stringer

About 450 Western Reserve Academy alumni and Hudson community members gathered on WRA’s front fields May 31 to witness the lighting of a 60-foot oak adorned with more than 75,000 lights.

WRA Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck said the illuminated tree is a recognition of Hudson’s 225th birthday this year and the launch of a three-year commemoration of WRA’s 2026 bicentennial.

“We wanted to do something that speaks to the legacy of Western Reserve – and our motto of ‘lux et veritas’ or ‘truth and light’ – but that is also a gift for the Hudson community,” Walker Buck explained in an interview following the event.

The tree took five days, eight men and three bucket trucks to illuminate, according to Walker Buck. It will shine every night, from dusk to 11 p.m., through the end of 2026.

“We hope the whole community and beyond will engage with the tree over the next two years,” she said.

At the May 31 ceremony, Walker Buck reflected on how trees, with their vast root system, are fitting symbols of WRA and Hudson’s unique interconnectedness of “shared roots” and “nutrient exchange” that becomes “more vital” with age.

Hudson Mayor Jeffrey Anzevino, also addressing the May 31 crowd, noted that David Hudson founded not only the town but also Western Reserve University, WRA’s predecessor, and built a house across the street from the campus to look over the institution.

“The roots between the city of Hudson and Western Reserve Academy do indeed run deep,” he said. “They are and will forever be linked all the way back to our city’s founder.”

WRA hosted the lighting ceremony during its 2024 Reunion Weekend, also using the occasion to announce the retirement of longtime archivist Tom Vince.

After the event, Walker Buck said WRA is “eternally” grateful for “Tom’s enthusiasm for history and his ability to bring it to life.”

“Fortunately, Tom has assured us that he will continue to be engaged,” she added.

As far as future bicentennial events, Walker Buck said a concert series and a speaker series are in the works and the school is planning various ways to work its 200th anniversary into curriculum.

“We want to take this opportunity to look at the ways that we’re connected to something greater than ourselves,” she said, “… how we are connected to the community, to the region, the state, the country and the globe, particularly as a school that has students from 33 different countries.”

For more information on the WRA bicentennial activities, visit wra.net. Information about the city of Hudson’s 225th can be found at hudson.oh.us. ∞

Longtime Hudson resident and historian Tom Vince retires from his post as Western Reserve Academy’s archivist, a position he held for nearly 30 years.

Photo (main/above): Toasting in front of the glowing oak are (l-r) Hudson City Manager Thom Sheridan, Western Reserve Academy Board of Trustees Co-President Martin Franks, Hudson Mayor Jeffrey Anzevino, WRA Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck, Ohio State Representative Casey Weinstein and WRA Board of Trustees Co-President Nathaniel Leonard. Photos by Andrew Jordan.