Sun Devil alumni share their tales of what the century-old campus icon meant to them as the ASU walk's revitalization wraps up
They came to Tempe from all corners of the country and globe, but 111 things drew them together: one university and a stately row of 110 palm trees.
After Palm Walk’s renovation wrapped up this fall — the campus icon turned 100 last year (maybe) and the Mexican fan palms were replaced with precisely matched date palms — Arizona State University alumni shared their memories of Palm Walk over the years.
Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now
University landscape architect Byron Sampson calls Palm Walk “a place of memory,” and for alumni it is exactly that. Many met spouses under those trees and found a connection to home under them. Some even came to ASU because of those trees. In at least one case, Palm Walk represents a triumph of education.
Most common among alumni is the romance story, like George Garcia’s.
“I met Kelsey, my wife, on our first day at ASU,” Garcia said. “Many of our first evenings at ASU we walked along Palm Walk and got to know each other. We would (walk) Palm Walk all the way to University Bridge and watch the Arizona sunset. Ten years later, the memories we made on Palm Walk are some of our fondest at ASU.”
Jeffrey Heinrick, Class of 2004, bleeds gold and maroon. He is a third-generation Sun Devil. His parents met at ASU, and his mother’s parents were at ASU when it was Tempe Normal School. There are 30 ASU grads in his family, including his two brothers.
“Our son Liam was born in April, and he will be in the ASU Class of 2040,” Heinrick said. “I have nothing but great memories of ASU, and I am proud to be a Sun Devil. Fork ’em Devils!"
Heinrick met his wife in law school back East. He wanted to impress her when she came to Arizona to meet his family.
“I was trying to think of things we could do while we were here, and I thought, ‘What better place to show off than my alma mater, Arizona State University?’ I gave her a tour of campus, and of course, we walked down Palm Walk. She was amazed at the beauty and the size of the campus. ... I have so many great memories of ASU that it’s hard to focus on just one.”
As a freshman from a small town away from home for the first time, Palm Walk was Lara Fox's North Star.
“That is, if I could find Palm Walk, I could get to where I needed to be on campus,” Fox said. “It helped me find my classes that first week in August 2001 and led me back to my dorm in PV East each night. I think all incoming freshmen have a special bond with Palm Walk.”
Abdullah al-Ogaby, Class of 2001, came from Saudi Arabia.
“I was there with a group of Saudi officers, and because we came from a country with a lot of palms, this was one of our favorite places at ASU,” al-Ogaby said. “We used to walk every day going to the mosque from the end of Palm Walk.”
Willow Liebert graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s in real estate. While she was at home in Missouri deciding where to go to college, she ordered brochures from schools she was interested in.
“When the brochure arrived, it was a winter morning that was so cold, I could see my breath in my room before I even got out of bed,” Liebert said. “Let me tell you ... that makes you really not want to get up for school! I took one look at the brochure and it had a view of Palm Walk ... palm trees as far as you could see and that’s when I decided I was going to go to ASU, and I vowed I would never scrape another windshield as long as I lived! That was in 1996, and I meant it and I still love it here. I tell that story all the time when people ask me how I wound up in Arizona.”
Denice Darling-Diab was drawn to Palm Walk on her very first visit to the ASU campus with her children when she first moved to Tempe. She hadn’t decided whether to go back to school then. Now she has bachelor’s in elementary education and in communication and her master’s of higher and postsecondary education, all from ASU.
Palm Walk “reminds me of all of the people who have walked down that path,” Darling-Diab said. “Following in their footsteps — purely majestic to me. I completed three degrees at ASU. My oldest two also graduated from ASU. Now my youngest son and husband are students here. To think that we walk similar paths and all the paths that may come after, even grandchildren, makes me proud to be a Sun Devil.”
Top photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now