News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 19, 2012

Rose-Hulman students find daily special treats under ‘cookie tree’

TERRE HAUTE — Oh, cookie tree, oh, cookie tree.

It’s a phrase many Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students know as they grab a tasty homemade cookie before heading off on holiday break.

It’s all because of Mary Greer. She bakes the treats daily the week during the final days of class. The cookies fill holiday trays under a decorated tree near the campus switchboard desk, in the middle of the main lobby of Hadley Hall.

Greer, who has worked part-time at the switchboard for the past 12 years, started the tradition nine years ago.

Chelsea Copenhaver of Fort Wayne, a junior studying biomedical engineering, is one who appreciates the gesture. “We don’t get to have our parents bake cookies, so it is nice to have that here when we are missing home for the holidays,” she said as she collected a few sugar cookies Tuesday.

Copenhaver said she is grateful for Greer’s holiday cheer.

“She is so great. She is always here with a smile. She just loves Rose and you can tell. She is the kind of person that makes Rose so great because she makes it like a family,” Copenhaver said.

The sugar cookies “are so good,” Copenhaver added. “I was checking Twitter before class and I saw like three people said ‘Cookie Tree!’ and I was like, we are going right now. We were so excited and dropped everything to come down here.”

Greer said her inspiration to bake cookies harks back to when she was a 10-year-old student walking home along Gilbert Avenue. “Ms. Portee,” a neighborhood woman, often had warm oatmeal raisin cookies that neighborhood children knew were waiting from them in her home.

“I thought about how I was raised in a community on Gilbert Avenue,” she said of the treats. “That just stuck with me and I thought of giving back to see the response of the students. It makes them very happy and has made me want to continue this on.”

She prepares the cookie dough three months in advance and stores it in her freezer. She then bakes a variety of 300 to 400 cookies daily this week, like snickerdoodles, chocolate chip and sugar cookies, as well as items such as red velvet cupcakes and Chex-Mix bags.

“The students deserve it,” Greer said. “They study hard to get through here.”

Kirk Hubbard, a senior in civil engineer from Greensburg, said he never knew of the treats in Hadley Hall. “I don’t come this way that often and hardly get out of Olin Hall,” he said. “It’s real neat,” he said as he took a cookie.

Freshman Nate Kinsella of Dayton, Ohio, studying mechanical engineering, plans to spread the word to his classmates. “I saw this on Facebook on Rose-Hulman’s site. It’s pretty cool for the last week before Christmas and lightens the mood for the last week,” Kinsella said.

Andrew Thompson of Vernon Hills, Ill., a junior in mechanical engineering, said he “just found out about [the cookies] this year, so I have missed out for the last two years apparently. Thank you, they are really good,” he told Greer.

The cookies typically are all gone by late afternoon, ready for Greer to replenish in the morning. Before that happens, Sam, her husband of 47 years, acts as “quality control” for the cookies, Greer smiled. “He likes this time of the year.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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