Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


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Reader 1

Kimberly Drake

Reader 2

Nancy Neiman

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@ 2022 Kendall B Lowery


Scripps College is famous for its olive trees and the award-winning olive oil that they produce. However, despite the considerable age of the trees, the campus community has only harvested the annual crop of olives for the past decade. In this thesis, I set out to learn why the trees were planted on the campus in the first place. To this end, I immerse myself in the history, culture, and commerce of the olive oil industry, and ultimately use the fruit as a lens through which we can explore the colonial history of Scripps College and Southern California. In order to construct my analysis, I delve into the architecture and landscaping of the Claremont Consortium, explore archival documents from Denison Library, and interview olive authors, purveyors, and growers. I argue that Scripps has used the olive tree in order to enact several goals: to strengthen the institution’s Mediterranean aesthetic; to call upon associations with Grecian academic prestige; to take advantage of the olive’s symbolism of nourishment, resilience, peace, friendship, and excellence; and to achieve the colonial goal of usurping the land from the Tongva people. It’s difficult to think of a plant that holds more symbolic power than the olive tree, which is precisely why it is such a powerful colonial tool. Olive trees have borne witness to countless years of history and oftentimes have stood in for history itself. The tree holds much more than its fruit: it contains the contradictions that define our own lives.