Know an agriculture student in the market for niche financial aid? The Department of Horticultural Sciences at Texas A&M University awards 30 to 40 scholarships a year to horticulture majors, including the Fred Brison Scholarship for pecan production from the Texas Pecan Growers Association.
The scholarship began in 1976 in honor of Dr. Brison, a Texas A&M professor who is recognized by the pecan industry as one of the foremost experts in both the culture and management of pecans.
“Dr. Brison taught the pecan course for 43 years in the horticulture department at Texas A&M, and published the Pecan Culture textbook,” says Dr. George Ray McEachern, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M. “Dr. Brison’s expertise was in plant propagation, especially in pecan grafting. He helped develop several systems, which were taught and used throughout the industry for more than 60 years.”
He adds, “Dr. Brison was a gentle and knowledgeable teacher who knew all of his students by name. More importantly, he was the positive force that led many into professional careers in the pecan industry.”
Perhaps his most memorable mark on the industry came in grafting techniques. Brison worked with the rough bark patch bud and the classic pecan patch bud graft that is used by many nurseries today. But his final graft was a gift to the Texas pecan industry: The Texas method inlay bark graft, which he is credited for creating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pecan Station’s L.D. Romberg.
“The inlay graft will ‘take’ when all other grafting techniques fail with pecans in the hot, dry climate of central and west Texas,” McEachern explains.
Throughout Brison’s career, he mentored others who have gone on to transform the pecan industry. Today, horticulture students at Texas A&M with an interest in pecans can apply for the scholarship.
A recent recipient, Heather Salopek, is now the marketing specialist for the National Pecan Growers Council, and in 2014, she started her own pecan retail business, Legacy Pecans. Salopek hails from a fourth-generation pecan farming family that grows more than 6,000 acres of pecans in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Dr. Fred Brison was, and continues to be, a staple in the pecan industry,” Salopek says. “My father studied under Dr. Storey, who was taught by Dr. Brison, and his teaching continues to influence my father’s farming practices, which in turn affects my retail business. We are committed to only offering premium, high- quality pecans, and Dr. Brison had a hand in influencing the techniques and management practices for quality pecans.”
She adds, “I am passionate about serving my community and creating a legacy. Being a recipient of the Fred Brison Scholarship shaped my scholastic and professional careers, as the scholarship helped aid with some of the out-of-state expenses and allowed me to continue my education at Texas A&M University.”
Horticulture students interested in receiving financial aid or scholarships should visit Texas A&M’s Department of Horticultural Sciences website for information.