Arbor Day tree planted in memory of UW-W alum


Katie Popp, Campus News Editor

“I closed my camera bag today for the indefinite future,” said 2016 UW-Whitewater graduate Amber Levenhagen in her senior-sendoff piece with the Royal Purple. “The million dollar question: what’s next?”

Throughout her time at UW-Whitewater, Levenhagen was known for her love of nature and photography. Following graduation, she was employed as the community reporter and photographer for the Unified Newspaper Group in Verona. In 2017, she was awarded second place of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s “Rookie of the Year,” and named a Future Headliner the following year.

“She was my first student photographer who came to work in our office,” said Craig Schriener, photographer and writer for University Marketing and Communications. “At that age, their portfolio is really them photographing for themselves more than other people. They’re photographing themselves. Her portfolio was full of flowers, color, light, and natural beauty – and that is exactly who she was.” 

Levenhagen tragically died in a car accident Aug. 9, 2019. No four years following her passing, friends and family returned to the Whitewater campus to honor her legacy and passion for the environment on Arbor Day. The UW-Whitewater Sustainability Office planted a tree overlooking the Royal Purple office in McCutchan Hall to not only represent her love of journalism, but also her love of the nature on campus.

“Doing research about tree plantings here on campus, I found a number of correlations between Arbor Day and remembrance of different events,” said Sustainability Director Wes Enterline. “The very earliest effort was the first anniversary of our institution on May 1, 1869, where a group of young men assembled to plant royal elm trees along Graham Street. They each planted two to three trees, where they stood as the pride of the school for over 100 years.”

Levenhagen had contacted Enterline about her concern for the trees on campus while she was a student here. He worked with her over the course of a few months encouraging her to pursue her passion for the environment at UW-W.

The annual Arbor Day tree planting is part of the Sustainability Office 50 Trees for 50 Years of Earth Day fundraising effort launched in April 2020. This year’s event began with a short introduction to the Tree Campus certification and the Salisbury Idea native tree inventory found throughout the Salisbury and Chopp Arboretums. Brief tours of the Halverson Log Cabin were provided before we finishing with the tree planting and a reception luncheon in the University Center.

Family and friends of Amber have chosen to #livelikeAmber as a way to bring her spirit into their lives. 

“This tree is a symbol of the optimism she carried,” said Enterline. “I hope somebody that follows us will carry that legacy forward as well.” 


To see some of Amber Levenhagen’s environmental photographs and articles, visit the following links:

Colgate ad endorses helpful initiative

Small balls pose big threat

A bountiful harvest

Urban Forestry Commission seek input through tree survey

Facilities plea for bird seed