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US: AFE awards more than $42,000 in 2019 scholarships

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has awarded 15 students with scholarships totaling $42,300. Seventy-four applications were received for this 2019 scholarship cycle.

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

"I'm excited to see the high quality of students each year and the AFE Board is pleased that AFE is able to award financial assistance 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

American Florists' Exchange Scholarship — $2,400
Vocational (Bettinger, Holden and Perry) Scholarship – $1,500
Recipient: Armando DeLoera – City College of San Francisco

A senior in floriculture, DeLoera is majoring in floristry with a minor in marketing. For the past two years, he has freelanced at Saks Fifth Avenue, where he works on window displays and creates seasonal floral designs. He hopes his studies in business will help him to establish a successful floral business, promoting eco-friendly growing and sustainable practices while helping individuals and communities interested in the floral and environmental industry. “I will put my knowledge, expertise, and continuing education to use by starting a movement to educate and inform the general public about the benefits, values, and qualities of eco-floral designs. This includes implementing reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose values,” said DeLoera.

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. The American Florists' Exchange Scholarship provides tuition assistance to students attending a college or university in California or students of California attending a college or university in other areas of the U.S.

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 honors 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; and 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.

Julio and Sarah Armellini Scholarship — $2,200
Recipient: Abigail Keairns – Murray State University 

Seeking a degree in Agriculture Science – Horticulture, Keairns would like to eventually own and run a greenhouse and landscaping operation. She has managed her own lawn and landscaping business since 2012. This summer she is a horticulture/agriculture and natural resources intern with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. She has volunteered for several years at Field Elementary in Louisville where she teaches students about where food comes from through gardening projects. “I devote my efforts to not just graduating with a degree but taking every opportunity to get as well-rounded of an education as possible,” said Keairns. “This makes me better able to reach my career goal of owning and operating a greenhouse/nursery operation with possible landscape design.” 

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. He used skills he gained as a mechanic 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 — $1,100
Edward Tuinier Memorial Scholarship — $4,600 
Recipient: Caleb Spall, Michigan State University 

A senior majoring in horticulture with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, Spall is interested in the use of LED lighting fixtures in floriculture. “By integrating LED lighting fixtures in floriculture rather than the traditional HPS lamp systems, a tremendous amount of energy -- typically lost as heat from HPS lamps -- can be saved,” explains Spall. In addition to his involvement in student horticulture groups, Spall has worked this year as a grower at the Michigan Horticulture Education Foundation, horticulturist at MSU AgBioResearch, and researcher at MSU Floriculture. 

After graduation from MSU, Spall plans to study at the Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands where he will continue his studies into the effects of LED lighting. Following earning his master’s degree, Spall would like to work for either a private or public extension service in the United States, providing expert consultation to the industry and also continue to perform research. “I believe that by decreasing energy expenditure and waste production, the green industry can positively impact the environment while continuing to produce high-value crops for consumers,” said Spall.

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.

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 Edward Tuinier Memorial Scholarship is awarded to sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate students enrolled in the floriculture program at MSU.

Harold Bettinger Scholarship — $2,000
Recipient: Rhiannon Newton, West Virginia University

Newton is entering her senior year completing her agricultural science degree with a major in horticulture and a minor in entrepreneurship. She hopes to be a greenhouse grower after graduation and would like to eventually own a business. “I have loved plants ever since I was a kid. In fact, I used to carry around a potato instead of the usual blanket or stuffed toy. So, it was no surprise when I decided to major in horticulture,” said Newton. At West Virginia University (WVU) she completed an independent study, growing all of the bedding annuals for the WVU campus from plugs to maturity in the campus greenhouse. This year she is studying abroad in Vienna, Austria.

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 Harold 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.
BioWorks IPM/Sustainable Practices Scholarship — $1,200 
Recipient: Sage Drohan, Orange Coast College

Drohan is a junior majoring in Landscape Architecture at Orange Coast College, where she focuses on sustainable design and horticulture. Since 2016 Drohan has owned Sage Succulents and Cacti. “I want to expand my company by providing drought-tolerant landscaping services to both residential and commercial clients,” said Drohan. She has a larger goal following graduation, joining the Peace Corps. “As a Peace Corps volunteer, it would be my goal to educate others about the importance, empowerment, and wealth associated with sustainably responsible horticulture and landscaping practices.”

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.

James Bridenbaugh Memorial Scholarship — $500
Mike and Flo Novovesky Scholarship — $2,700
Recipient: Alexis Ramstine, Colorado State University
Alexis Ramstine is a junior majoring in horticulture business management with a focus on ornamental plants, fresh cut flower production, and horticulture as an instrument of public health. For the last few years, Ramstine has been employed full-time at Longmont Florist in Longmont, Colorado. “After graduation, I hope to continue to work in design or a greenhouse setting while donating time to community gardens and the restoration of trails in the Rocky Mountains,” said Ramstine. “I really want to see more hands in the dirt, more people planting and enjoying the natural world. Public garden spaces, parks, and recreation areas are the heart of our society. I hope to see more people passionate about such spaces.”

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 James Bridenbaugh Memorial Scholarship is for sophomore, junior or senior students who are pursuing a career in floral design and marketing of fresh flowers and plants.

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. The Mike and Flo Novovesky 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.

CalFlowers Scholarship — $5,800
Recipient: Helene Dondero, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

A senior majoring in agricultural science with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture and a minor in agricultural business, Dondero grew up in the floral industry. In addition to working in her family’s business, Fiore Floral and Gifts, Dondero is active in numerous student and industry organizations with CalPoly and FFA. She plans to return to complete a master’s degree in agricultural science. “My goal is to be an agricultural science teacher and FFA Advisor. I will be able to share my overall general knowledge of agriculture with my students, plus knowledge from my hands-on experience working in floral, wholesale, and growing operations,” said Dondero. “I strongly feel that from this hands-on experience -- and relationships I have built in the industry -- I have a greater understanding to the vastness of the horticulture industry, and I look forward to sharing that with my students.”

The California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers (CalFlowers) was founded in 1941 by a small group of flower shipping companies to foster the success of the California floral industry. Today, CalFlowers is the leading floral trade association in California serving growers and the entire supply chain in the state and in 47 states across the U.S. The CalFlowers Scholarship is for undergraduate students attending an accredited California college or university or an undergraduate California resident attending an accredited college or university elsewhere in the U.S. 

John Carew Memorial Scholarship — $2,000
Recipient: Mary Lewis, University of Georgia

Mary Lewis expects to complete her master’s degree program in horticulture in December 2019. Her focus is on ornamental plant breeding, specifically eight native Asclepias species. “I have come to my specialty a little later than some, but having worked from landscaping to public gardening, commercial greenhouse production to garden center care, I can see and appreciate how the different facets of this industry fit together,” explains Lewis. She hopes her many internships and research experiences, including time with Ball Horticulture Company and Disney World, along with a diverse course schedule will allow her to better understand the needs of different consumers.

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 John Carew Memorial Scholarship is open to graduate students in horticulture with an interest in greenhouse crops.

Earl Dedman Memorial Scholarship — $2,000
National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association (NGMA) Scholarship — $500
Recipient: Gergely Motolai, Kansas State University
Gergely Motolai is a senior majoring in horticulture science and minoring in entomology. His focus is on in greenhouse production and entomology. Motolai is working at Bird's Botanicals and at the Kansas State University Greenhouses. “I am interested in research and teaching. My main goal would be to work at a University and teach the next generation of horticulturists, conducting research that would help the horticulture industry as a whole,” said Motolai. 

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.

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.

Long Island Flower Growers Association (LIFGA) Scholarship — $1,400 
Long Island Flower Growers Association Bob Gunther Scholarship – $1,000
Recipient: Cassandra Castano, Farmingdale State College 

A senior in landscape development at Farmingdale State College majoring in horticulture technology management, Cassandra Castano is planning further education to become a landscape architect, working on urban projects. “My career goal is to become a landscape architect and design for communities, whether it be through parks, gardens, residential, or commercial landscapes. I plan to gain work experience and take additional courses to strengthen my knowledge of plants, garden styles, sustainability, and innovative practices,” said Castano. 

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.

The Long Island Flower Growers Association Bob Gunther Scholarship was established in memory of the late Bob Gunther, owner of Gunther’s Greenhouses & Florist in Oceanside, New York. It is intended for students from Long Island and New York who are studying ornamental horticulture at a community college or four-year institution in New York. This includes floriculture, landscape maintenance, landscape design, turf and any other courses of study related to ornamental horticulture. One student will be awarded this scholarship annually.

Richard T. Meister Scholarship — $4,000
Recipient: Emily Teng, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Teng is obtaining her Ph.D. in tropical plant and soil sciences, and plans on working in floriculture production and variety improvement research. In her dissertation research she is analyzing the pigments in poinsettia bracts. Since heat delay is a major obstacle for poinsettia growers in warm climates, her research focuses on the effects of heat delay in poinsettias on anthocyanin production in the bracts. She wants her work to connect scientific research with practical industry applications in either extension work or in floriculture production. "I would like to obtain a position at a university as an educator and concentrate on research improving ornamental production," said Teng. 

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 Richard T. 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. 
Lawrence "Bud" Ohlman Memorial Scholarship — $2,500 
Recipient: Krishna Bhattarai, University of Florida

Krishna Bhattarai expects to complete his Ph.D. in environmental horticulture in December 2019. His focus is on developing resistance to powdery mildew in gerbera daisy and impatiens. Bhattarai hopes to become a plant breeder and develop new cultivars with novel horticultural traits and enhanced disease resistance that is desired by consumer and floriculture industry. “Plant breeding is my passion and primary interest. My goal is to become a plant breeder and develop new cultivars using conventional breeding, marker assisted breeding and biotechnology. As an ornamental breeder, I want to develop new cut flowers, landscape and garden cultivars with better floriculture and/or enhanced disease resistance traits. I hope to contribute to the industry by developing plants that are changing ecology, friendly and perform well in minimal resource and challenging environment,” 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. The Lawrence "Bud" Ohlman Memorial Scholarship goes to students with the career goal to become a bedding plant grower for an established business.

Seed Companies Scholarship — $2,500
Recipient: Erin Pfarr, Rutgers University

Erin Pfarr is completing her Ph.D. in plant biology with an emphasis in plant breeding and genomics at Rutgers University. Her thesis work is focused on big-bracted dogwood genetics and breeding. After having worked on several research projects during her undergraduate and graduate studies, she is particularly interested in breeding for disease and insect resistance, drought tolerance, cold tolerance, noninvasiveness, novel flowering traits such as repeat blooming, and edible ornamental plants. “I would like to work as a private sector ornamental plant breeder developing beautiful and functional ornamental plants,” said Pfarr.

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 the Seed Companies 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 — $1,200 
Recipient: Keslie Robbins, Mississippi State University 

A junior at Mississippi State University, Keslie Robbins majors in horticulture with a focus in ornamental horticulture. Robbins works at Happy Trails Flower Farm and Twigs Nursery and Landscaping. “I plan to open a nursery business, where I will sell a large variety of plants, garden tools, and supplies, as well as cut flowers and gifts. I hope to grow my own plants organically and sustainably,” said Robbins.

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 John L. Tomasovic Sr. Scholarship offers special consideration for sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate students with financial need and GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5.

Jacob and Rita Van Namen Marketing Scholarship — $1,200
Recipient: Kelly Pohlman, University of Kentucky
A sophomore majoring in horticulture, plant and soil science and minoring in agricultural economics, Pohlman is interested in a career path in floriculture marketing. She was a 4-H member as a young child and this past semester she studied abroad in Argentina. “From my time in 4-H, raising and entering plants in the county fair, I have been devoted to horticulture. My degree in horticulture will enable me to have a career in the marketing industry for flowers and plants,” said Pohlman. “I have found that I am particularly interested in native species of plants. In Kentucky, I have seen firsthand the effects that foreign species can have on our habitats. Problems could have been prevented, as for many foreign species there are native alternatives for the garden. I want to help people realize that native plants are not only perfectly adapted to their soil and climate, but they require virtually no fertilizers and help with pollinator habitats.”

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, and his wife Rita. 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.

For more information
American Floral Endowment
T: +1 (703) 838-5211
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