Flowers for Ashley: Gift to the Herbarium Remembers one of Sewanee's Bright Lights

November 8, 2017

Ashley Block on a biology field trip holds a catkin from a sourwood tree

As a student at Sewanee, Ashley Block, C’13, touched many lives. A student athlete, a standout participant in outreach programs, an ecology-biodiversity major, a dancer, an artist, a scholar, a daughter, a sister, and friend. In September 2016, she was tragically struck by a motorist while riding with a cycling group near Athens, Georgia, where she was a graduate student.

Among the many Sewanee people who felt the loss keenly was Greg Pond, who posted on social media, “Ashley Block, you helped me finish our first film in Jamaica. You had the remarkable ability to be both bold and compassionate with your camera. Our film wouldn’t be the same without you. You contributed so much to us and to all that you worked toward. I am heartbroken. This world is less without you.”

Now Ashley’s parents, Dr. William Arthur Block, C’88, P’13, and Teri O. Block, P’13, have established an endowment to support the Sewanee Herbarium, a library of plant species from the Cumberland Plateau that was originally assembled by Professor George Ramseur and is now lovingly cataloged and updated by Associate Curator Mary Priestley and Professor of Biology Jon Evans.

“We feel grateful to have the opportunity to honor our daughter by supporting two causes that were important to her: the Herbarium and Sewanee,” says Teri Block. “Ashley loved Sewanee. She was a constant cheerleader and recruiter for Sewanee, and she loved the environmental program. When we found out the Herbarium needed support, we knew that was what Ashley would have wanted us to do.”

The Herbarium provides post-baccalaureate and undergraduate opportunities for students to pursue botanical research at Sewanee. “The Block memorial endowment will be used to sustain all aspects of this successful, peer-mentored program,” says Professor Jon Evans. “It will also allow us to support promising first-year students who demonstrate a passion for the study of plants.”

In the summer of 2016, Ashley returned to Sewanee as a Herbarium Graduate Fellow and worked with Evans to develop a publication from her undergraduate honors thesis examining forest succession at King Farm. She also worked with botanists across the state to promote the formation of a Plant Conservation Alliance in Tennessee. “Ashley served as an amazing mentor and role model to the undergraduate interns working in the Herbarium that summer, “says Evans. “It is our hope, that the Ashley E. Block, C’13, Endowment will allow the Herbarium to perpetuate Ashley’s legacy of exceptional student engagement in botanical research at Sewanee.”

To make a gift to the endowment in memory of Ashley, contact: