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‘The Cookie Tree’ Good Deed Continues to Put Campus in Holiday Spirit

December 18, 2013

Mary Greer

Special Holiday Gifts: Mary Greer, Rose-Hulman’s morning switchboard operator, has been placing special baked treats under a holiday tree in the lobby of Hadley Hall for more than a decade.

While lights twinkling on a Christmas tree decorated in school colors in the lobby of Rose-Hulman's Hadley Hall may not be unique, what happens under the tree is. Thanks to Mary Greer, this tree is more than just something pretty to look at during the holiday season. This is affectionately known as "The Cookie Tree."

Greer, the institute’s morning switchboard operator, has been baking treats and leaving them under the tree for students for the past 11 years. Sugar cookies, gingerbread men, snack cakes, popcorn balls, and other treats are handmade, individually bagged, and piled in baskets and on trays for the final week before students take a break for the holiday season.

The tradition has goes back to when Greer began working at the college 13 years ago.

First, Greer began making decorations for the tree. Then, she thought of all the students who pass by the tree each day. She decided to bake goodies—enough for every student to have at least one homemade treat each year.

Using her grandmother's recipe, Greer bakes sugar cookies and ices each one. "I keep a day ahead because the icing has to set before you slide them in the bag," she explains. She creates "not only cookies, but I make little snack cakes and gingerbread men." Snack mixes have been a recent addition to the collection.

Students wait anxiously for the arrival of each day's cookie supply. "Before they appear, people walk past the tree, and they're looking," Greer says. Much to the students' delight, the cookies can soon be found under the tree, all individually bagged and tied with a festive piece of ribbon. Each day, Greer refills the tree with about 500 cookies and snacks.

From her perch at the reception desk near the tree, Greer has the pleasure of seeing the reactions and enjoyment of students and staff as they choose from the variety of treats.

Her joy obvious, Greer smiles as she relates tales of students and the cookie tree. "I can be working and I'll hear the big guys say, 'These are the bomb!' or 'you should try that stuff with the M&Ms in it!'"

Greer gives each snowman cookie a unique face, and she tells a story of a student who sat down next to the tree to examine the different faces on the cookies. “She said, 'This looks like my lab partner—you think I should give it to him?'" Greer chuckles, "I said, 'Well, honey, I don't know your lab partner.'"

Many students never realize that Greer is behind The Cookie Tree, but those who do will often leave her little notes. She pulled one such note from her desk drawer to share. It reads in part: "I just wanted to thank you for your generosity. You give hope for the season and give Christmas its good name."

It is those notes that motivate Greer each year.

As she's speaking, a pair of staff members stopped to snag a sweet snack on their way through the building. "Very delicious," one comments to Greer as he devours the gingerbread man.

"Well, I'm glad you enjoyed that cookie," says Greer, smiling warmly. "I'm glad you stopped by!"

Greer’s good deeds haven’t gone unnoticed. The Rose-Hulman Parents’ Association honored her several years ago for her service to students.