(07/12/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — A $100,000 scholarship has been given to support Louisiana 4-H, making it the largest endowed scholarship in the history of the organization.
The Dr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher, Jr. 4-H Scholarship is funded by Fletcher’s grandson, Paul D. Nevels, a class of 1972 LSU graduate, to honor the legacy of his grandfather — a legacy that includes a life-long dedication to student success and personal growth.
Fletcher, who served in the Navy, received a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from LSU in 1918. One year later he became a 4-H extension agent for Union Parish. In a letter from 1969, he fondly recalled his time working with area farmers.
“The people who lived in the rural sections were always glad to have company,” he wrote. “The office considered these visits important, sitting at night before a blazing fire with the farmer and his family around listening to the conversation.”
In addition to LSU, Fletcher also earned academic degrees from Louisiana Tech, Iowa State, and was awarded honorary doctorates from LSU, Marquette University, Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College) and Mercer University for his tireless dedication to the economic, social and educational progress of Louisiana and the nation at large.
In 1941, Fletcher became the third university president of the Southwestern Industrial Institute, which is known today as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In his bio on the ULL website, it states that any student who was planning to resign from the university was required to meet with Fletcher first so he could “determine whether anything could be done to enable him or her to stay in school.”
Fletcher’s unyielding drive for student success extended beyond U.S. borders to facilitate student exchanges in Europe, for which he was awarded the Medal of Gratitude by the Ministry of Education of France in 1946. One year later, he was conferred the title of Chevalier in the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor for civil or military service.
“My grandfather always believed anyone who has the ability and ambition should have the opportunity for securing an education,” Paul Nevels said.
In the field of agriculture, Fletcher served as both the president of the Jersey Cattle Club and vice president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Association. He was named “Man of the Year in Louisiana Agriculture” in 1948 by Progressive Farmer Magazine and “Humanitarian of the Year” at the 1971 Louisiana Dairy Festival, among numerous other accolades throughout his life.
Andrew Schade, director of development for the LSU AgCenter, notes that competitive scholarship packages help to keep the most talented students in Louisiana.
“This scholarship recognizes the achievement of our 4-H participants and encourages them to pursue study of agriculture at the university level,” he said. “Scholarships are critical for creating the next generation of leaders in Louisiana agriculture.”
Recipients of the Dr. Joel Lafayette Fletcher, Jr. 4-H Scholarship must be full-time LSU freshman students who were high school members of 4-H and are enrolled or intend to enroll in the College of Agriculture, with preferential consideration given to those pursuing or intending to pursue a degree in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation.
Louisiana 4-H department head Todd Tarifa thanked Nevels for his generous contribution, saying his grandfather’s name will live on through the future success of students who will benefit from the scholarship.
“The young people who receive this scholarship and attend LSU in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation will go on to teach others the importance of agriculture and its many contributions to the state of Louisiana and our great citizens,” he said.
The largest endowed scholarship in Louisiana 4-H history has been named to honor LSU alum and Louisiana agriculture pioneer Joel Lafayette Fletcher, Jr. Photo provided by Paul Nevels