Lauren Kessler, a senior in crop sciences, spent the first two years of college at another institution, but soon realized that she missed horticulture and needed to follow her heart. At the beginning of her junior year, she transferred to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to study horticultural food systems.
Kessler is the recipient of the Gail Ellis Memorial Scholarship fund. Ellis’ family established the scholarship to honor her commitment to helping students successfully complete degrees at the University of Illinois and celebrate her love of plants and gardening. Gardening was her passion. According to her family, she could often be found in a garden or searching garden shops for new plants. Ellis passed away in December 2014.
Kessler embodies a similar passion for horticulture. As a high school student at Glenbrook South High School, she took horticulture classes and competed in the state FFA horticulture career development event and national FFA nursery/landscape career development event. She credits Jeff Yordy, her agricultural instructor, for sparking her interest in learning and horticulture.
During Kessler’s last year of high school, Yordy passed away. In his absence, Kessler took on additional responsibilities, including assisting with coaching the horticulture team and aiding other teachers in operating the school greenhouse.
She worked for three years as a horticulturist at a private country club in Golf, Illinois. She cared for all of the flower containers and perennial beds on the property. She also designed the club’s containers and has enjoyed designing various gardens for family and friends, she says.
“Horticulture isn’t just something I’m interested in, it’s something I find so beautiful,” Kessler says. “It’s a subject about celebrating life.”
On campus Kessler has quickly made her mark. At the Mom’s Weekend Flower Show, she honored her Mexican heritage by designing a Mexican garden for the “Around the World” themed show. In addition to serving as president of Kappa Delta Chi, a Latina sorority, and chancellor of Alpha Zeta, she was initiated into Pi Alpha Xi, the honor society for horticulture students.