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Memorial Tree Planting in Honor of Anna Costa ’90 and Greg Schmidt ’65

By Annie Prutzman

Nearly 100 people gathered in the Living Lab on December 4 to remember two cherished alumni, Anna Costa ’90 and Greg Schmidt ’65, at the annual Anna Costa Memorial Tree Planting event.

Held every year on the first Sunday in December, the event is held in honor of Costa, who died in a car accident on a rainy morning in 1989 on her way to O’Dowd.

Costa was known for her love of nature and since 2001 her extended family and friends, known as “Anna’s Tribe,” have gathered annually at the Living Lab to plant trees in her memory. Most of the Living Lab trees, now numbering in the hundreds, were planted at one of these ceremonies.

This year, for the first time, the Anna Costa Memorial Tree Planting expanded to include a memorial for Greg Schmidt, ‘65. A close friend of the Costa family, Schmidt died on August 24, 2016. He had been a regular participant in the tree planting event.

A former O’Dowd student body president, Schmidt was the 2008 Cor Unum Award winner. This award is presented to select members of the O’Dowd community whose lives and work embody the core values of leadership, service, social justice and intellectual competence expressed in the school’s mission. Schmidt was the former Secretary of the California Senate and Chief Executive Officer of the California Senate Rules Committee.

In addition to Schmidt’s family, many of his O’Dowd alumni friends joined in the tree planting. Both families made donations to cover the cost of the trees.

“I am blown away by Anna’s dad, Steve Costa. Through his steadfast, humble leadership these many years of planting trees, he’s shown me that it is possible to transform unfathomable loss into something both creative and amazingly productive!”Director of Alumni Engagement and Philanthropy LizaDawn Ramirez said.

Meanwhile, the Costa family gives an annual scholarship in Anna’s memory to two junior students who have been active in Living Lab efforts. These scholarships are personally presented by three generations of the Costa family at a student awards ceremony held in May. The most recent winners of the Anna Costa Scholarship are Tyler LeBoa and Zoe Rennie.

During the Opening Circle of the tree planting event, held on the terrace of the Center for Environmental Studies, LeBoa and Rennie were introduced by Living Lab co-founder Annie Prutzman and received an enthusiastic welcome.

“I’m very proud to receive this acknowledgment of my dedication to the Living Lab,” LeBoa said. “And I’m really happy that I’ve spent so much time in the Living Lab, dating back to when I was in junior high school and my big brother Chris allowed me to tag along!” (Tyler’s brother, Chris LeBoa, was also an Anna Costa Award winner.)  “Over my years in the Lab, I have learned real skills from the adult volunteers – like how to build chicken coops, steps and compost bins – and how to lead a work team.”

In addition to providing the scholarships and donating trees, the Costa family recognizes other students active in the Living Lab. This year, juniors Connor Thomas and Dana Angeles, as well as senior Phoebe Lawton, were acknowledged during the Opening Circle.

As has been the case with every memorial tree planting event, Living Lab Club students prepared the site and assisted family and friends in planting the trees. They will also continue to help care for the trees.

Each year the planting project focuses on a different area of the Living Lab. Last year, the project was the new Mediterranean Garden. Located on the street side of the lower boundary fence of the Living Lab, this area is planted with food that is accessible to neighbors.

For this year’s project, a forest of mixed native species was planted next to the Redwood Circle below the Cummins Center parking area. Those redwoods were planted in 2001 at O’Dowd’s first Anna Costa Memorial Tree Planting.

Rennie observed that “these memorial events are based on everything that the Living Lab is about –  a community of individuals, connected by their care for each other and for life itself, dedicated to working  towards a living vision that can only be fully realized by generations of individuals each doing their part now, so others can do their part in future years. It’s kind of like the web of life.”

Added Ramirez, “We are so blessed to have Steve Costa as part of our community, keeping Anna’s inspiring memory alive for all of us.  And we are also blessed to have the Living Lab, thanks to all the people who envisioned and protected it, and who work so hard to nurture it. It is a spiritual place that inspires prayer and reflection, the perfect place to remember those we have lost.”

Meanwhile, the trees planted in memory of Greg and of Anna, are now growing their delicate, translucent roots, spreading out and down into the damp soil of their new home.

Click photo thumbnail to view in slideshow THEN images can be right clicked and downloaded at 1024px wide by 768px.


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