Meet the 2019 HRI Scholars

The Spring Meadow—Proven Winners Scholarship Fund:

Bright, well-trained, and qualified people are essential to the nursery industry, and that's what inspired Dale and Liz Deppe to create the Spring Meadow—Proven Winners Scholarship Fund in 1999. The fund is dedicated to helping aspiring students from across the country obtain a degree in horticulture. The Spring Meadow team has been blessed by this industry and the mentors who've helped them along the way. This scholarship fund is their way of giving back and sharing the excitement for plants and the nursery industry with others. 

Yufei Qian is a graduate student at the University of California—Davis where she is doing everything she can to learn and pursue her passion for plants. Yufei notes that she’s benefitted from a series of internships while at UC-Davis, including stints in UC’s Teaching Nursery working on plant propagation of ornamental plants and two lab internships learning and working on plant genetics and molecular level breeding. All of these experiences, Yufei says, are pointing her to a future career in woody plant breeding.

Aaron Sledge just started his junior year at Penn State University, however, is no stranger to horticulture. He’s already completed internships in arboriculture, interior plantscaping, and conservatory and historic landscape management—in addition to on-campus opportunities working in the greenhouse and as head propagator for the horticulture club. A well-rounded plant production student, Aaron is especially interested in woody plant propagation. He notes that his copy of Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is dog-eared from all the times he’s referenced it! Aaron was also selected as an AmericanHort Scholar for Cultivate’18, and I can personally attest to his work ethic and his enthusiasm for our industry.

William Lewis has been working for his family nursery since he was 14 years old. Currently, he is an undergraduate at Virginia Tech working towards a bachelor's degree in Environmental Horticulture and, ultimately, plans on taking over the family nursery business. He has worked in every aspect of the nursery - from leading the team at trade shows, to mechanics, to everyday operations. Not only is he a full-time student, but he drives two hours home every weekend to work at the nursery Friday through Sunday. William is steadfastly committed to his family nursery and the horticulture industry.

The Mugget Scholarship:

The Mugget Scholarship is one of HRI’s oldest scholarship funds, started by a group of industry folks who used to get together for social events at various ANLA and other industry events. So, what’s a Mugget? The Mugget Growers of America (MGA) was established back in 1981. (I like to imagine that the notion was conceived somewhere near a bar.) The group would meet at various industry events to discuss important plant issues regarding the development of a new (pretend) plant called ‘Mugget.’  During those “meetings,” they’d raise money for Horticultural Research Institute, ultimately creating and growing a scholarship fund of over $50,000.

Some of you may have met Melinda Knuth at Cultivate’18 where she served as AmericanHort’s Coordinator wrangling that year’s HortScholars.  Melinda got hooked on horticulture through her participation in FFA. She graduated from University of Nebraska with a degree in horticultural entrepreneurship and completed two horticultural internships at the most magical place on earth—Disney World! She’s currently enrolled as a PhD student at Texas A&M as part of Dr. Charlie Hall’s research team.


The Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship Fund:

The Carville M. Akehurst Memorial Scholarship was established in 2002 by the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show, Inc. (MANTS). This scholarship serves to memorialize Mr. Akehurst who served the horticultural industry as one of the founders of MANTS. MANTS established this scholarship with the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) with the belief that the strength and future success of the horticulture industry lies in the solid education of today's students. MANTS' establishment of this scholarship reflects Mr. Akehurst's firm belief that education begets one the opportunity to achieve.  

The 2019 Akehurst Scholarship has been awarded to Isabel Emanuel, a second-year graduate research associate in the department of Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University. Her research at the ornamental pathology lab focuses on the molecular interactions that occur between deciduous holly (Ilex spp.) and a newly emerging fruit rot pathogen, Diaporthe ilicicola.


The Susie & Bruce Usrey Education Scholarship Fund and the Usrey Family Scholarship Fund:

Susie and Bruce Usrey of Monrovia Growers Inc. established the Usrey Family Scholarship in 2001 and the Susie & Bruce Usrey Education Scholarship in 2009. The Usrey family considers graduating students in horticulture to be the lifeblood of the green industry. These scholarships are awarded annually to horticulture students enrolled in a California state university or college. 

Jose Guadalupe Gutierrez, the recipient of the 2019 Susie & Bruce Usrey Education Scholarship, attends California State Polytechnic University, Pomona pursuing his Master's in Landscape Architecture with the admirable goal to improve the quality of life of California residents’ living near a freeway by creating green spaces.


Christopher Chen received the 2019 Usrey Family Scholarship. He is passionate about viticulture and is pursuing his PhD at University of California Davis. After graduating, he is planning to continue to research grape vines with the objective of improving the lives of growers, wine makers, and consumers. 



The Bryan A. Champion Memorial Scholarship Fund:

Bryan A. Champion, president of Herman Losely & Son, Inc. in Perry, Ohio, was a 5th generation nurseryman with a passion for the nursery and landscape industry. Champion understood the value of a quality education and the importance of industry research. Bryan passed away on November 10, 2011 at the age of 47. In honor of his legacy and dedication to the nursery and landscape industry, his peers established The Bryan A. Champion Memorial Scholarship Fund. 

This year’s winner of the Champion Scholarship is Rebecca DeMoss.  She is a highly motivated student majoring in horticulture at The Ohio State University and aspires to someday start her own landscape design business. 




The Timothy S. and Palmer W. Bigelow, Jr. Scholarship Fund:

The scholarship was created in 1988 by the Bigelow family to aid students from New England who are seeking a career in horticulture. The scholarship was dedicated initially to one of the family's children, the late Timothy Bigelow. At Palmer W. "Bill" Bigelow's death, the name of its creator was added. The Bigelow family considers student scholarships the most important commitment the horticultural industry can make to ensure the growth and development of the nursery and landscape industry. 

The recipient of the 2019 Bigelow Scholarship is Soleil Kurowski-LaBelle.  She is attending the University of Rhode Island where she is the Vice President of the Horticulture club and works in the university greenhouse and gardens to get more hands-on experience with ornamental horticulture.




Alumni Scholars

Nathan Nordstedt

Brandon Miller

Mary Tuski

Madeline Olberg

Leala Machesney

Kristin Neill

Melissa Eggleston

Dustin Trychta

Allen Vizcarra

Daniel Loera

Joshua Henry
North Carolina State University, 2015

Timothy Jang
University of Illinois, 2015

Christian Young
Columbus State Community College, 2015

Kevin Trostel
Middle Tennessee State University, 2015

Nicholas Robinson
University of Connecticut

Jasmine E Martinez
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 2015

Stephanie Smolenski
University of California – Davis, 2015

Rachel Lyn Maiorino
California Polytechnic State University, 2014

Madeline W. Olberg
Purdue University, 2014

Jasmine Elaine Martinez
California State Polytechnic University, 2014

James F. Rockwell II
Virginia Tech, 2014

Sarah Maria Morales
University of Delaware Newark, 2014

Heather Slattery
University of Connecticut, 2014

Nathan Nordstedt
Kansas State University, 2014

Doug Phillips
North Carolina State University, 2014

Nathan Maren
North Dakota State University, 2014

Laura Marie Hayes
University of Minnesota Twin Cities, 2014

David Roberts
North Carolina State University, 2013

Keith Lukowski
North Carolina State University, 2013

Kimberly Shearer
North Carolina State University, 2013

Chelsea Gusler
Virginia Tech, 2013

Donald Keith
University of Vermont, 2013

Stephanie Marino
University of Maryland, 2013

Josh Henry
Ohio State University, 2013

Olivia Meyer
Kansas State University, 2013

Brett Johnson
Oklahoma State University, 2013

Alejandro Estrada
University of California – Davis, 2013

Rachel Maiorino
California Polytechnic State University, 2013

Leah Comerci
West Virginia University, 2012

Stephanie Marino
University of Maryland, 2012

Renee LeGue
Conway School of Landscape Design, 2012

Justin Menke
University of Kentucky, 2012

Allison Jones
Michigan State University, 2012

Chelsea Gusler
Virginia Tech, 2011

Joseph Rothleutner
Oregon State University, 2011

Michele Langone
University of Vermont, 2011

Samuel Bookhadt
Humboldt State University, 2011

Jason Lattier
North Carolina State University, 2011

Lucy Wang
University of Maryland, 2010

Julia Kriz
George Washington University, 2010

Amanda Lilly
City College of New York, 2010

Daniel Buelow
Colorado State University, 2010

Emily Silverman
North Carolina State University, 2010

Tristan Cleveland
Pennsylvania State University, 2009

Benjamin Madeiras
University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2009

Sam Bookhardt
Humboldt State University, 2009

Emily Duyst
California Polytechnic State University, 2009

Gerrit Shuffstall
Morgan State University, 2008

Kayla Harrison
University of Rhode Island, 2008

Ryan Contreras
North Carolina State University, 2008

Kaythryn Sanford, 2008

Amanda Rosa
California Polytechnic State University, 2008

Kelly Jarvis
​University of Rhode Island, 2007

Thomas N. Saunders
Virginia Tech, 2007

Warner Orozco-Obando
Auburn University – Davis, 2007

Colin S. McKim
California Polytechnic State University, 2007