by Don McKale
Tee Senn, a graduate of “The Great Class of ’39,” gave a lifetime of dedication and service to the class, Clemson University, and the study of horticulture. Almost singlehandedly, Tee founded and helped to develop much of what is today the South Carolina Botanical Garden. During 1959, in his role as the new head of then Clemson College’s horticulture department, Tee secured 44 acres of college land on Perimeter Road for a camellia grove and trial gardens. By 1973 the scenic Clemson Horticulture Gardens had grown into a 76-acre public site, with gardens that included azaleas, wildflowers, bog, research areas, duck pond, and a special first-in-the-nation hortitherapy garden. Also a bright red caboose sat at the front of the gardens, thanks largely to the campaign of Tee’s wife, Marguerite “Reet” Senn, to secure the rail car from Southern Railway as a gift to the gardens.
At Tee’s urging, the Class of ’39 adopted the gardens as one of the class’s signature projects. In 1981 the class approved at its reunion two resolutions honoring Tee, one providing monies from the class treasury to support a university fund named for him to provide scholarships for horticulture students.
Today the caboose and surrounding Caboose Garden serve as special memorials to the Class of ’39. Located on the original 44-acre tract, they form a key part of the class-sponsored and funded Heritage Gardens at the main entrance to the present 295-acre S.C. Botanical Garden. The garden remains one of the university’s most popular attractions, drawing an estimated 80,000 visitors annually, many of them children. In 1991 the university honored Tee by naming the garden’s original tract of land “The T.L. Senn Horticultural Gardens.”