Robert P. Snyder: The Man Who Planted Trees
By Keri Lindenmuth ’16
Moravian College Spanish Instructor Margaret Snyder says her father, Robert P. Snyder, always believed that what was good for the college was good for the city of Bethlehem, and vice versa. For four decades, her father demonstrated this unyielding passion for the campus community and the city.
Robert Snyder was an assistant to the Rev. Dr. Raymond S. Haupert, former President of Moravian College. Until his retirement in 1984, Snyder oversaw nearly every position on campus, from alumni and fundraising publications, to the bursar’s office and building and grounds. He was also president of Bethlehem City Council and worked to improve the city. During a time when many Moravian students came from out of the area, Snyder strove to make the college and the city one community and to encourage local Bethlehem students to attend the college.
A lover of nature as avidly as he was a lover of the city and college, Snyder donated and planted more than a dozen trees on campus. He planted his first tree, a crabapple, behind Comenius Hall, when his son, Jim (Margaret’s younger brother), was born. Every time a child or a grandchild was born, Snyder planted another tree. Sometime around 1954, he planted two Moraine locust trees behind Memorial Hall for Margaret and her sister Sally. He planted a European green beach behind Colonial Hall for his first grandchild.
Margaret watched as every year her father devoted his time to making the college a better place for both students and the city of Bethlehem. She felt like she grew up at the college, she says. As a high school student, she worked at the library and simultaneously took classes at the college and was one of the first students to do so in the area. Moravian became just as much a part of her life as it was her father’s. For the last sixteen years, she has taught full-time at the school her father had dedicated so much time and passion to, an experience she describes as a “thrill.”
After Robert passed away in 1989, funds were raised to build the back staircase of the Brethren’s House, and the college dedicated the stairway to Snyder. And near the Brethren’s House, a red maple tree was planted in his honor.
Margaret looks at her father’s accomplishments in both the city and the college fondly and proudly. She recalls that when he retired in 1984, earning an honorary degree from the college, he remarked: “It has been a privilege watching trees and students grow.”
Many of those trees, and the students who pass beneath them every day, continue to grow, thanks to the invaluable dedication Snyder had shown to Moravian College.