Farm family celebrates its ties to Bryant with Christmas tree donation

Farm family celebrates its ties to Bryant with Christmas tree donation

Members of Bryant University's facilities staff inspect a Christmas tree, donated by long-time Smithfield resident John Emin, before transporting it to the school's campus. (Valley breeze & Observer photo by David Wuerth)

SMITHFIELD - The 20-foot balsam that will brighten Christmas at Bryant University this year is deeply rooted in the school's past.

It's a gift from John Emin of Seven Cedars Farm near the campus, whose great-grandfather, also John, once owned the 240 acres that became Bryant's campus when it moved here from Providence 42 years ago.

The latter-day Emin, 77, felled the evergreen himself last week after it had spent the last 16 years growing on his Christmas tree farm and nursery, turning from a foot-high Maine seedling into a stately fir.

The earlier John Emin, a Cranston goldsmith, bought the acreage in 1894, for $3,400, and his son John turned it into a dairy and pig farm and apple orchard.

After decades in the family the property was resold, eventually landing in the ownership of Earl Silas Tupper - of Tupperware fame - who left it to Bryant in 1967.

But that's not the only connection between Bryant and the Emin Family.

The current John's great-uncle, Leander, graduated from the school's predecessor, Bryant & Stratton National Business College in Providence, at age 15.

Leander's sister, Adele, was a Bryant & Stratton graduate, who, according to her great-nephew, lived to 107 and was the first female certified public accountant in Rhode Island and the third in the nation.

Today's John Emin, who describes himself as a "sentimentalist" and is a local historian and former Town Council president, said he got the idea last year to donate a tree annually to Bryant in honor of his antecedents who were part of its past.

The tree, in its new location outside the Fisher Student Center on the Douglas Pike campus, was to play a starring role last night, Dec. 11 - at the University's Christmas observance - in the 150th year since Bryant & Stratton was created in 1863.

As is traditional, the campus community and alumni were to convene at 7 p.m. for a candle-lighting ceremony in the Unistructure, and then walk to a multi-denominational observance at the tree and a large Menorah beside it, for caroling after President Ronald K. Machtley threw a switch lighting the tree and the Menorah.

Emin says he takes enough satisfaction in his donation - the tree would normally cost $100 - that he has another already lined up for the first Christmas of Bryant's second 150 years in 2014.

Long-time Smithfield resident John Emin, above, inspects the Christmas tree he has cut down for Bryant University on Tuesday. Mr. Emin, who grows Christmas trees, offered the university a choice of several trees on his property. At left, members of Bryant University's facilities staff inspect the Christmas tree before transporting it to the school's campus.