(03/29/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — Bill Welch, a Houston native with strong ties to Texas horticulture, has given $100,000 to establish an endowed scholarship for LSU College of Agriculture students. Students pursuing a program of study in horticulture will be eligible to receive the William C. Welch Scholarship for Excellence in Horticulture.
A three-time graduate of LSU, Welch holds a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and master's and doctoral degrees in extension education and horticulture. He has served as a horticultural specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service for nearly 50 years and has been instrumental in influencing the landscapes of southern gardens.
Welch recalled his decision to come to LSU and major in landscape architecture.
"The landscape architecture program at LSU was one of the best in the nation," he said. "Dr. Reich was head of it when I came there, and he became quite well known."
Robert Reich was a mentor for Welch and influenced his decision to attend LSU. Reich was the head of the landscape architecture program at LSU from the early 1950s until he retired in 1983.
"I was a native of Houston, and I didn't know a lot about LSU, but I quickly learned about it," Welch said. "Dr. Reich convinced me I needed to go there, and I did. It was really the place for me to go, and I think it was really a good choice."
When Welch started his degree program, he was unfamiliar with landscape architecture. He had a strong interest in horticulture and enrolled in many horticulture course electives.
Reich was also interested in horticulture early on and convinced Welch that landscape architecture would be a great career path to pursue.
"I was more interested in horticulture than most landscape architecture majors," he said. "It was interesting because Dr. Reich had a PhD in horticulture, and he had an interest in horticulture as well, so we shared that.”
After completing his undergraduate degree in 1962, Welch returned to Houston to work in the nursery industry.
Welch would use his landscape architecture and horticulture background throughout his career, often providing home gardeners with advice on garden and landscape design.
He reflected on how working in the nursery industry was a continual learning experience, which helped him expand his knowledge of horticulture.
After several years of working in the nursery industry, he returned to LSU to pursue his graduate studies while working part-time as an extension landscape horticulturist for the LSU AgCenter.
Welch accepted a job as an extension landscape horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Extension in 1972, where he spent the remainder of his career until he retired in 2021.
During his tenure as an extension horticulturist, he spent much of his time traveling to the 254 counties in Texas to speak with extension agents, nursery professionals, civic groups and the general public.
Writing has been an important part of Welch's educational outreach to gardeners. He contributed to columns in many publications highlighting horticulture practices, including a monthly column he wrote for Southern Living for many years.
Welch published several gardening books that extended his mastery insight into designing a southern garden and harmonizing the plants within a landscape.
He has been recognized for his involvement with Texas garden clubs and nursery organizations throughout his career.
In addition to the new scholarship endowment at LSU, Welch has endowed a scholarship for students in the horticulture program at Texas A&M University.
Welch has dedicated his career to the advancement of the horticultural profession. He hopes that his scholarship endowment will advance the next generation of students passionate about horticulture.
"I hope students get some encouragement and financial support out of it," Welch said.
Bill Welch and his wife, Lucille, tour the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station with AgCenter horticulturist Jason Stagg. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter