AFE announces 2017 scholarship winners

AFE announces 2017 scholarship winners

The organization awarded over $36,000 in scholarships this year.

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July 27, 2017
Press Release
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ALEXANDRIA, VA – The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has awarded 20 students with scholarships totaling $36,500. Sixty applications were received for this 2017 scholarship cycle.

Emily Currens, University of Georgia, John L. Tomasovic Sr. Scholarship

"We had many outstanding students apply for scholarships this year, which is why some scholarships were awarded to two recipients," said Dwight Larimer, AFE Chairman and Education Committee Chair.

"I'm proud to see the high quality of students each year and I enjoy granting scholarships to these well-deserved students to help them continue their education and become passionate industry leaders." 

AFE awards scholarships annually, and applications are due by May 1 of each year. Scholarship descriptions are available at endowment.org/scholarships.

American Florists' Exchange Scholarship — $2,200
Recipient: Summer Blanco, California State Polytechnic University - Pomona

Blanco is a junior majoring in biology (botany option) with a minor in agronomy. After completing her bachelor's and master's degree, she plans on joining the Peace Corps as an environmental education primary teacher in Nicaragua, which is her family's native country. Later, she wants to pursue a doctorate degree focusing on projects related to flowering genetics and pollination biology, specifically for the floriculture industry. "I hope to integrate my research toward the development of products and organisms that improve this industry," said Blanco.

The Original Los Angeles Flower Market was established in 1921 and is now part of the largest wholesale flower district in the U.S. Scholarship recipients are juniors or seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, majoring in agriculture with an emphasis on a future in floriculture. This scholarship provides tuition assistance to students attending a college or university in California or student residents of California attending a college or university in other areas of the U.S.

Julio and Sarah Armellini Scholarship — $2,100
Recipient: Noah Boulds, Murray State University

A junior majoring in horticulture and minoring in agribusiness, Boulds is interested in running his own greenhouse in the future and growing cut flowers for local florists, as well as small vegetable production. "I want to raise my transplants and also sell spring annuals, mums, poinsettias and other products. I would eventually like to build an aquaponics or hydroponics system to keep my produce in production year-round," said Boulds.
Julio "Toots" Armellini is founder of Armellini Express Lines, the largest flower carrier service in the U.S. Armellini enlisted in the Navy as a "Seabee" and was stationed all around the globe as a mechanic, where he learned the skills he used to modernize refrigerated trucking. When he began expanding his lines in the early 1950s, refrigeration was new and underdeveloped, so he established a more effective way of cooling his supplies using a system of constant airflow. ThermoKing eventually made his contributions to refrigeration systems standard. Today, Armellini has almost 70 years of experience in the industry, and Armellini Industries, Inc. encompasses many businesses: Armellini Express Lines, Inc., J.A. Flower Service, Inc., Fresco Service, Inc. and NorthStar Transportation, Inc. The Julio and Sarah Armellini Scholarship is intended for sophomore, junior or senior students with a career interest in the marketing or distribution of floral products.

Ball Horticultural Company Scholarship — $1,000
Recipient: Melissa Eggleston, Michigan State University

A junior majoring in horticulture and minoring in agribusiness management, Eggleston has a goal to become a greenhouse grower at Shenandoah Growers and grow herbs for a living. "My goal with Shenandoah Growers is to hopefully be asked back after my internship, and potentially have a job as a grower when I graduate," she said.

Ball Horticultural Company is a leading international breeder, producer and wholesale distributor of floriculture products. Ball brings the beginnings of color, foliage, fruit and form to professional growers around the world for the retail and landscape markets. The Ball Horticultural Company Scholarship is intended for junior or senior students pursuing a career in commercial floriculture. 

Harold Bettinger Scholarship — $1,900
Recipient: Melinda Knuth, Texas A&M University


Knuth is majoring in horticulture and hopes to become a horticulture professor at a land-grant university in the future. She wants to educate and share research on the health benefits of horticulture. "I want to help share the message that horticulture is part of every essence of human life and it has more than aesthetic qualities," she said.
Harold Bettinger was a partner in Bettinger Farms of Swanton, Ohio. In the mid-'50s, he was one of the first progressive growers to convert his bedding plant production from wooden to plastic flats. Bettinger Farms now grows greenhouse and field vegetables. The Bettinger Scholarship is intended for horticulture students, sophomore through graduate levels, who have a major or minor in business and/or marketing with the intent to apply their education to a horticulture-related career business.

BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship — $1,200 ($600 split between two students)
Recipients: Emily Perry, University of Massachusetts - Amherst and Benjamin Meeks, University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Perry is a sophomore obtaining her bachelor's degree in sustainable horticulture, and wants to focus on floral material, annuals and perennials within the green industry. She is interested in eventually becoming an agriculture teacher to educate on floral design and greenhouse management, as well as owning her own successful garden center. "I am passionate about plants, teaching and sharing the joys of working in the industry. I want to inspire young adults toward a green industry career," said Perry.
Meeks will be receiving his bachelor's degree in plant science (organic production) in December. "I am studying sustainable, natural and efficient horticultural/agricultural methods because there are people whose livelihood and sometimes lives depend on knowledge," said Meeks. "Whether I work in the horticulture industry, consult, or teach at school gardens, my chief plan is to use what I learn through my education in organic production as a means of blessing my neighbors — whether they be in the U.S. or across the globe."
The BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship is intended for sophomore, junior or senior students pursuing a career in floriculture. Students are selected on the basis of sound academic performance and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. While not mandatory, it is strongly desired that the student be interested in furthering the use of integrated pest management (IPM) or sustainable practices.

James Bridenbaugh Memorial Scholarship — $400
Recipient: Katelyn Stoops, University of Missouri


A senior studying agribusiness management and plant sciences, Stoops plans to own a floral shop, greenhouse and event venue after graduate school. "I would also like to get involved with the local FFA students and youth interested in horticulture in the greenhouse, hosting classes and workshops to further their education and opportunity," she said.

Jim Bridenbaugh was a specialist in fresh flowers and plants, designing and commentating at design shows and seminars. His floral industry knowledge, comedic storytelling and audience rapport made him a favorite. He served as President of OFA from 1989 to 1991. The Bridenbaugh Scholarship is for sophomore, junior or senior students who are pursuing a career in floral design and marketing of fresh flowers and plants.

John Carew Memorial Scholarship — $1,900
Recipient: Emily Teng, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Teng is currently obtaining her Ph.D., and after she receives her doctorate, she plans on working in floriculture production and variety improvement research. She wants her work to connect scientific research with practical industry applications. "In the future, I would like to obtain a position at a university as an educator and concentrate on research improving ornamental production," said Teng.
John Carew, former head of the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University, dedicated his career to encouraging and guiding young horticulturists. He was instrumental in establishing Bedding Plant International (BPI) in 1969. The Carew Scholarship is open to graduate students in horticulture with an interest in greenhouse crops.

Carlson-Johnson Scholarship for Nontraditional Students — $1,100
Recipient: Brittany Farmer, College of Southern Nevada

Farmer is a sophomore majoring in floral design and has a job as a horticulture technician focusing on indoor plants. "My career goal is to work in floral design, and I have hopes of entering the growing field in the future," said Farmer.

Barbara Carlson and her husband Will were instrumental in the establishment of BPI. Fran Johnson enjoyed a long, productive career with the John Henry Company, a horticultural printing firm in Lansing, Mich. Johnson also made many significant and practical contributions of time and talent through BPI to advance the greenhouse industry. The Carlson-Johnson Scholarship for Nontraditional Students is awarded to students re-entering school after a minimum five-year absence who have an interest in bedding and/or floral crops.

Earl Dedman Memorial Scholarship — $1,900
Recipient: Ruqayah Bhuiyan, University of Georgi
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A junior majoring in horticulture with an emphasis in science, Bhuiyan hopes to eventually work in the industry for a couple of years, and then pursue a Ph.D. in plant breeding or plant pathology. "I am interested in the sciences and skills involved in plant breeding. I believe that breeding has the ability to benefit and transform the horticulture industry," said Bhuiyan.

Earl Dedman owned and operated Mountainview Greenhouses in Woodinville, Wash., and was a former president of BPFI. In addition to his participation with BPFI and BPI, he was involved with the Montana State Flower Growers, the Puget Sound Flower Growers and the Washington Floricultural Association. Educated in rural Montana in a one-room schoolhouse, Dedman had a strong commitment to education. He considered education and hard work to be the keys to success in life. The Earl Dedman Scholarship is awarded to junior or senior students maintaining a minimum 3.0 GPA who are interested in becoming greenhouse growers.

Long Island Flower Growers Association (LIFGA) Scholarship — $1,300
Recipient: Sean Halliwell, Farmingdale State College

Halliwell is a junior majoring in horticultural technology management and minoring in biology. "I have always had an extreme devotion toward plants and plant science. I plan to attend graduate school and hope to one day combine all that I've studied in theory and in practice and apply them toward some great importance within the green industry," said Halliwell.
The LIFGA Scholarship was established in 2010. LIFGA members represent growers and retailers promoting research, education and sales of ornamentals in the local market. The scholarship is intended for students in the Long Island/New York area studying ornamental horticulture at a community college or a four-year institution.

Richard T. Meister Scholarship — $3,900
Recipient: Nathan Nordstedt, The Ohio State University


Nordstedt is currently obtaining his Ph.D. in molecular biology of floriculture crop improvement. "I plan to pursue a career in the research and development of sustainable technology, particularly for innovative biological products, for the improvement of floriculture crop production systems," he said.

Dick Meister built a family business in publishing for specialized growers in commercial horticulture. He is a strong supporter of the land-grant college system and through the years worked closely with many horticultural and floricultural leaders. This scholarship is dedicated to the outstanding accomplishments of those in university extension. The Meister Scholarship is open to graduate students in floriculture intending to pursue their career in the land-grant university system with interest in research, extension or teaching.

National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) Scholarship — $500
Recipient: Jean Yost, University of Georgia

Yost is focusing on widening into the production of micro greens through hydroponic and greenhouse systems, breeding for disease resistance, and assessing ornamental plants to pair with edible landscapes. "I would like to breed my own cultivar of a plant species that is nutritionally significant to the consumer population," said Yost.
NGMA is a professional trade organization for the manufacturers and suppliers of greenhouses and greenhouse components built to codes designed for a grower's needs. The NGMA Scholarship targets students majoring in horticulture and bioengineering or the equivalent and are at least a junior at an accredited four-year college maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

Mike and Flo Novovesky Scholarship — $2,500
Recipient: Sophia McCusker, North Carolina State University

A sophomore majoring in horticultural science management, McCusker's career goal is to own a business with an outreach component, working within communities to create gardens and spread knowledge for successfully incorporating edibles into decorative landscapes. "I want to use my skills to create awareness for using sustainable practices in the green industry," she said.

Mike and Flo Novovesky have enjoyed more than 30 years of active participation in the floriculture industry. The Novoveskys understand the hardships a young couple must overcome when balancing a career and a family. Their scholarship fund aims to help young married students who are working to put themselves through college and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Depending on the availability of married applicants, the scholarship may also go to an undergraduate working his or her way through school with financial need and family obligations. The keys are a strong interest in horticulture and financial need.

Lawrence "Bud" Ohlman Memorial Scholarship — $1,000
Recipient: Krishna Bhattarai, University of Florida

Bhattarai is a Ph.D. student focusing on gerbera daisies whose primary interest has been plant breeding. "I am destined to work as a breeder as my professional career with a focus on disease resistance. My goal, as an ornamental breeder, is to contribute to the industry and research community by developing new cultivars, identifying disease resistant genes and molecular markers," said Bhattarai.

Bud Ohlman was a hands-on grower in his family business, expanding the truck gardening operation to include greenhouses, bedding plant and flowering annuals production. He coached expansion projects even into his 70s. His work ethic was second to none, inspired by God, his family and the industry. This scholarship goes to students with the career goal to become a bedding plant grower for an established business.

James K. Rathmell, Jr. Memorial Scholarship for Horticultural Work/Study Abroad — $3,300
Recipient: Paul Bartley, North Carolina State University

Bartley's career goal is to become an educator, through an academic position or extension, and to support the industry through basic and applied research to answer questions they deem most important. "Whether in the classroom or on stage at a conference, my goal is to inspire enthusiasm and to provoke critical thinking on important issues in our multifaceted industry," said Bartley.
Jim Rathmell was a horticulture extension specialist at Penn State University who promoted communication and cooperation with horticulturists in other countries. A widely published author, he worked with commercial growers to implement many outstanding educational programs. The Rathmell Scholarship is awarded to junior or senior level undergraduates or graduate students who have a specific plan for horticulture work/study outside of the U.S.

Seed Companies Scholarship — $2,300
Recipient: Drew Groezinger, Highland Community College

Groezinger hopes to be a positive advocate for the floriculture and horticulture industry in the future, whether as a floral business distributor, a production farmer, a strong contributor to agri-tourism or in public relations. "I believe that each of us needs to be educating the world about the importance of horticulture and the simple fact that we cannot live without it," said Groezinger.
The seed companies Ball, Pan-American, Goldsmith and Syngenta are leaders in the seed production and breeding industry, providing new and improved varieties. These seed companies cooperatively sponsor this scholarship, which requires students to have a career goal within the seed industry and be junior or senior undergraduates or graduate students.

John L. Tomasovic Sr. Scholarship — $1,000
Recipient: Emily Currens, University of Georgia

Entering her junior year, Currens is majoring in horticulture and wants to be a greenhouse manager focusing on production. "My main goal in the floriculture industry is to be an integral part of a greenhouse operation," she said.

Past president of BPFI John Tomasovic has grown his family business, John L. Tomasovic, Sr. Florist Inc., in St. Louis, Mo., which includes a greenhouse from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. They produce geraniums, pot mums, hardy mums, bedding plants, ground covers, poinsettias, Easter lilies, bulb crops and foliage, carrying on the business his father began in 1931. The Tomasovic Scholarship offers special consideration for sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate students with financial need and GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5.

Edward Tuinier Memorial Scholarship — $4,400 ($2,200 split between two students)
Recipients: Melissa Eggleston and Anthony Soster, Michigan State University

A junior majoring in horticulture and minoring in agribusiness management, Eggleston has a goal to become a greenhouse grower at Shenandoah Growers and grow herbs for a living. "My goal with Shenandoah Growers is to hopefully be asked back after my internship, and potentially have a job as a grower when I graduate," she said.

Soster is a junior majoring in horticultural science and focusing on floriculture/bedding crops. "I hope to further the field of floriculture through lifelong learning and education. I want to get people as excited about horticulture as I am, and show people that working hard and getting your hands dirty can be one of the most gratifying ways to work," said Soster.

Owner of Post Gardens Ed Tuinier loved the greenhouse business, building his firm to one of the top 50 U.S. companies and inspiring his children, all of whom work in one of the two Post Gardens locations. A graduate of MSU, Tuinier was a major benefactor of the MSU horticulture program and demonstration gardens. The Tuinier Scholarship is awarded to sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate students enrolled in the floriculture program at MSU.

Jacob and Rita Van Namen Marketing Scholarship — $1,100
Recipient: Megan Haresnape, Kansas State University


With a major in horticultural production and a minor in agribusiness, Haresnape hopes to spend most of her time working with the production and marketing of native plants. "Through proper marketing techniques and educational classes, I believe that it is possible to make an impact and help consumers have happier, healthier gardens," she said.

The Jacob and Rita Van Namen Marketing Scholarship was established in January 1997 and was named for Jacob Van Namen, a true entrepreneur who built a multimillion-dollar business in wholesale floriculture. This scholarship is intended to develop knowledgeable, creative individuals who will improve the floriculture industry. The scholarship requires students to have a career interest in agribusiness marketing and distribution of floral products and be a sophomore, junior or senior.

Vocational (Bettinger, Holden and Perry) Scholarship – $1,500
Recipient: Drew Groezinger, Highland Community College

Groezinger hopes to be a positive advocate for the floriculture and horticulture industry in the future, whether as a floral business distributor, a production farmer, a strong contributor to agri-tourism or in public relations. "I believe that each of us needs to be educating the world about the importance of horticulture and the simple fact that we cannot live without it," said Groezinger.

The Vocational (Bettinger, Holden and Perry) Scholarship requires students to be in a one or two-year program with the intent to become a grower or greenhouse manager. The Vocational Scholarship awards a scholarship in honor of: LEONARD BETTINGER, who was a successful greenhouse grower in the Bettinger Farms family business in Toledo, Ohio, and was President of BPI from 1974-76; JOHN HOLDEN, who had a long, helpful career at Ball Seed Company and was active in BPI since its inception, attending the very first "pre-BPI" conference in 1968; JIM PERRY, who was a respected wholesale nurseryman and grew Perry's Plants of La Puente, Calif. into one of the largest bedding plant operations in the U.S. and was President of BPI from 1972-74.