Sewanee is full of extraordinary people with fascinating stories. Here they share those stories–in their own words.

Oliver Hutchens, C’23

Aspiring botanist, plant doctor

Three or four years ago, the biology department got a major donation from Vanderbilt when their greenhouse closed. It’s an amazing collection. Seeing all the plants only requires walking a little loop around this 20-foot building, but I could do that loop for hours, looking at all the specimens—seeing if they’ve grown a little bit, seeing if they need to be watered, if there are any weeds growing in the pots. That sounds like bliss—at least to me. There's a little bit of my heart in that greenhouse.

Working with the Sewanee Herbarium has been my first step into a community of people who feel the same way I do, who see what I see in botany. But I also feel a very fundamental drive to grow that community. Plant Doctor Friday was something I put together to help more people understand the immense joy that can come from plants. A lot of people need help keeping their plants healthy, so Plant Doctor Friday ended up being the most popular event that we have ever held. A ton of people showed up with the saddest little dorm plants you’ve ever seen. We helped them out, showed them how to keep them happy, and I guess I got a bit of a reputation for that.

I think of my work at the Herbarium as a fusion of what I have discovered I am passionate about in the world and my own efforts to connect with the people around me. With the passion I found for exploring the things growing and thriving around me, I started finding myself saying, "I want more connections like this. I started with plants, and now I want more connections with people, maybe connections with people about plants." That's how I became the Plant Doctor, I guess. That's how it became so important to me.

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