ACES scholarship is deeply meaningful for animal sciences student

Jacqueline Springer and Jay Haning tailgating at the Illinois Homecoming game in 2015.

As she opened her email in class, Jacqueline Springer started shaking as emotions overwhelmed her. With tears in her eyes, she rushed outside of the classroom to call her dad. He was just as shocked as she was. 

The phone line was silent as Jacqueline’s news sank in. Only her dad could understand how meaningful it was to receive the Jay Haning Scholarship.

Haning was Jacqueline’s mom’s family friend and her dad’s childhood best friend. He introduced Jacqueline’s parents and became a huge part of their family’s lives, becoming so close that he earned the title “Uncle Jay.” 

Jacqueline grew up on her family’s farm in Hopedale, Illinois, and started showing pigs when she was just three years old. She remembers visiting her mother’s alma mater — the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign — for football games where her dad’s childhood friend, Jay Haning, always hosted some of the best tailgates. 

Inspired by her childhood memories in the show ring and her family’s positive experience, Jacqueline always knew Illinois was the right place for her. 

Now a senior in the Department of Animal Sciences, part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), Jacqueline has decided to stay at Illinois four more years to attend veterinary school. “I love the environment here,” she says. 

Jacqueline embraces the spirit of Illinois. She enjoys attending football games with her friends and sitting in the bowl to cheer on the Illinois men’s basketball team. Like her mother and Uncle Jay, Jacqueline is involved in Greek life as a member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. 

“I have made two of my very best friends in my sorority,” she said.

While maintaining a vibrant social life, Jacqueline embraces academic opportunities as stepping stones to accomplish her dream of becoming a swine veterinarian. 

As a James Scholar, she was involved in the IGNITE program, which provides incoming ACES undergraduate students with the opportunity to participate in research. During her freshman year, she conducted swine production research with animal sciences professor Robert Knox. She and Knox were co-authors of a paper for a globally recognized and widely respected swine production website. 

The summer following her freshman year, Jacqueline worked at the Swine Research Center (SRC) at Illinois. Last year, she spent the summer with The Maschhoffs’ veterinary team, traveling all over the Midwest. She also worked in Normal, Illinois, at Town and Country Animal Hospital. Now, Jacqueline is employed at Illinois’ Meat Science Laboratory as a research assistant. Each step has led her toward her veterinary calling.

In January, Jacqueline applied for a pool of ACES scholarships, each awarded based on different criteria. By happenstance, she was awarded a scholarship in memory of her late “Uncle Jay” just days before the six-year mark of his passing. 

Jacqueline reminisces about the many memories that they shared together: Every Sunday, they would go to Monical’s Pizza to celebrate the week. Uncle Jay visited her elementary school, ate lunch, and was a guest reader in her classroom. He was always one of her biggest supporters. 

Haning was also on the cutting edge of tractor-pulling and loved doing it. His tractor was named “A Buck With No Doe.” Jacqueline loved going to watch him do tractor pulls; he was so passionate about it, she said.

Now, John Deere has a kid tractor pull dedicated to him at the Farm Progress Show. 

Jacqueline sees Haning as a role model. “He was so friendly with everyone — he could not walk into a place and not know at least someone there. He was always making someone laugh and had such a great sense of humor,” she says. 

When creating this scholarship, Haning’s family stated that they hoped “the scholarship assists someone who has attributes similar to Jay’s — hard work, enjoyment of life, and active in extracurricular activities while in college.” 

Being recognized for the same qualities that she so admired in her beloved family friend is humbling and a tremendous honor to Jacqueline. She will carry on his memory as she continues into veterinary school at Illinois while “trying to live like him and be happy and uplifting everywhere I go.”