Project Description

Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS)

The Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship was established in 2002 by the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show Inc. (MANTS) and is administered by Horticultural Research Institute (HRI). The scholarship memorializes Carville M. Akehurst who served the horticulture industry as one of the founders of MANTS. 

“One of the ways HRI works to advance the horticulture profession is through the financial support made available to students seeking lifelong careers in horticulture,” said Jennifer Gray, research programs administrator for Horticultural Research Institute and AmericanHort. “Establishing a scholarship is a tremendous way to honor a legacy while building the future.” 

Vanessa Finney, executive vice president of MANTS and president of Quercus Inc. agrees. 

“My father was very engaged in the horticulture industry in Maryland and the mid-Atlantic region,” said Finney. “He was a fourth generation nurseryman in his family. He was not only involved in the growing aspect, he was also very interested in advancing the entire horticulture industry.” 

Finney said her father’s involvement with the Maryland Nurserymen’s Association led to working with a group of nursery growers in the late 1960s that resulted in the establishment of MANTS. The show is sponsored by the nursery and landscape associations in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. The first show was held in Williamsburg, Va., in January 1971. 

“My father was working with the Maryland Nurserymen’s Association and was also managing MANTS,” Finney said. “In his professional capacity, he also worked closely with the American Association of Nurserymen (AAN). In 1994, AAN held its annual meeting in conjunction with MANTS. 

“Over the years my father was a relationship builder. He was involved with many horticulture organizations. He had the resources to advance the cause of what he was trying to accomplish.” 

Importance of education 

Finney said when her father died in 2001, the MANTS board of directors discussed what could be done to recognize and remember her father for what he had done for the industry. ]

“One of the main reasons for setting up a scholarship in my father’s name was because he was a strong believer in education and advancing the next generation,” she said. “The board decided establishing a scholarship was a good way to memorialize him.” 

Partnering with the Horticultural Research Institute was a natural next step. HRI was already managing scholarships for other industry organizations. Finney said MANTS funded an initial amount over $100,000 for the scholarship so that an endowment could be created. 

“We have many MANTS exhibitors that contribute to the scholarship fund annually,” she said. “MANTS then transfers the money over to HRI every year to grow the fund. MANTS offers a variety of sponsorships in which exhibitors can participate. One of the sponsorships is my father’s memorial scholarship fund. There have been some very loyal exhibitors that have been making contributions to the scholarship fund every year since it was established.” 

The HRI endowment currently offers seven scholarships generously established by several donors. HRI and its member firms consider graduating students in horticulture to be the lifeblood of the green industry.