A Tradition of Giving: Newton family Endowed Scholarship Fund

Portrait of a family consisting of a mother, son, two daughters, and father stand in front of a pond and trees.

The Newton family includes, from left, Patty, William, Claire, Nicole and Carl Newton. Photo provided by Patty Newton.

The Newtons — Carl and Patty — have sown the seeds of a bright future for LSU College of Agriculture students. With an unwavering commitment to education and a deep-rooted passion for agriculture, the Newtons have created an endowed scholarship fund that promises to transform the lives of aspiring young agribusiness and plant and soil systems students.

The journey of giving begins with a reflection on their own roots.

Carl Newton explains, “We didn’t just up and decide to fund a scholarship. We had help along the way. I had a great family to rely on. My father and his four brothers all farmed. I also had numerous mentors that I counted on for advice and guidance.”

These early life lessons provided by family and mentors, as well as hard work and determination, have yielded a sense of not only gratitude but also created the active work of giving back to others through philanthropy that runs deep with the Newtons.

A family tradition of giving

The Newtons’ philanthropic spirit is not a standalone endeavor. It continues Patty’s family’s generational commitment to education and community betterment.

“I was exposed to philanthropy through Patty’s father, Aaron Selber Jr.” Carl proudly stated.

In the early 1900s, the bustling business community of New Orleans faced a pressing challenge: a scarcity of local talent educated in business to fuel, support and sustain their enterprises. Recognizing the need for a solution, a handful of visionary businessmen within the community, including Patty’s great-grandfather, William Burkenroad, banded together, pledging funds to Tulane University to establish a business program to bridge this educational gap. That effort resulted in what is now the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane.

Patty’s grandfather, William Burkenroad Jr., exemplified this commitment, becoming a first-generation college student who earned a business degree from Tulane in the 1920s. Decades later, Patty’s father, Aaron Selber Jr., followed suit, graduating from Tulane with a business degree in the 1950s.

Upon Patty’s grandfather’s passing, the family built on this legacy by endowing the now nationally recognized Burkenroad Reports, one of the earliest experiential learning programs in the country, at Tulane’s business school. When Patty’s father passed away, her family endowed the Aaron Selber Jr. Curriculum in Alternative Investing at the Freeman School of Business at Tulane. The program is pioneering innovative classes studying challenging financial topics such as distressed debt, arbitrage and hedge funds.

Continuing the legacy

“Now it’s our turn,” Carl states. “Since we are LSU graduates, we think we must offer our support to educational opportunities at LSU.”

The Newtons firmly believe that universities thrive when they are deeply engaged with their local communities and industries. As a leading agriculture and research institution, LSU holds a special place in their hearts. They understand that the key to success is collaboration that enhances education through real-world experience.

“The researchers and professors need input from the community and businesses. That’s one of the big reasons we contributed — to make the university more successful and ensure that the current generation of students blossoms into productive citizens,” said Carl.

Carl and Patty’s families both have generational ties to agriculture. Patty’s grandfather and great-grandfather, William and William Burkenroad Jr., imported and traded coffee. The company, J. Aron and Company, became one of the largest importers of coffee into the United States.

Later, at the bottom of the depression, they purchased sugarcane property and a small sugar house in Lafourche Parish that utilized a sulfur process to produce white granulated sugar. This grew into the Supreme Sugar Refinery, which became the fourth largest in Louisiana and was sold in the 1970s to the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, one of the largest agricultural products operators in the country.

Carl Newton has been farming for 45 years, during which time he has witnessed the ebb and flow of commodities.

His father was a cotton and sugarcane farmer, and Carl vividly recalls the turmoil the cotton industry faced in the 1970s due to insect infestations and unpredictable weather. In response, the family made a strategic shift to grains and later shifted back to sugar.

LSU’s role in supporting agriculture has been evident throughout the years. He recalls when entomologists from LSU visited the Newton family farm in the 1960s to study boll weevils and evaluate the effectiveness of integrated pest management practices.

Carl emphasizes the importance of a well-rounded education.

“If you are well-educated in the sciences and business side — it takes both — the name of the game is to be able to flex and pivot because life is not always straightforward, and you must be able to roll with it. Being educated gives you the best chance of success,” he said.

Understanding the intricacies of business, finance and marketing has been pivotal in running his agricultural enterprise. He is convinced that the present is an excellent time to devise innovative business plans within the agriculture sector.

Over the years, Carl has traveled to Central and South America, where he invested in horticulture and aquaculture projects as well as grain and beef businesses. This journey expanded his horizons, enriched his perspective on agriculture life, and created an interest in helping others with the potential to pursue inconceivable goals — such as a college or advanced degree.

Today, Carl still tends to his family farm in Pointe Coupee Parish, where he embodies the values of hard work, dedication and resilience that are the hallmarks of an agricultural life.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be in the position to help move the needle forward for the next generation,” Carl shares.

The Newtons’ $120,000 pledge to establish an endowed scholarship fund for College of Agriculture students is not just a financial contribution; it’s a testament to their commitment to shaping the future of agriculture. Additionally, they’ve endowed a professorship in memory of Carl’s father, The Durwood Joseph Newton Professorship in Sugarcane Variety Development, “ensuring that his legacy lives on in the halls of academia.”

Carl noted that LSU’s visionary leadership from Vice President for Agriculture Matt Lee and President William F. Tate IV inspired his philanthropic endeavors around giving. Their dedication to LSU and the broader community underscores the importance of partnerships between educational institutions and local industries.

As they look ahead, the Newtons seek to inspire others to follow in their footsteps, creating a brighter future for generations to come.

11/30/2023 8:37:09 PM
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