Alumni siblings honor parents through scholarships

Raised on a family farm in Monroe County near Prairie to a father who was an ardent farmer and a mother who prioritized education, the Rowe siblings recall a wholesome upbringing driven by faith and hard work, and seasoned with a love for Mississippi State University.

Although their parents, James Robert Rowe and Betty Rowe, never attended Mississippi State University, they made sure all of their children did— an act which inspired the Rowe siblings to honor their parents through the creation of an endowed scholarship.

“In the late 1950s, during a time of segregation, my mom and dad were not allowed to attend Mississippi State, so instead, they sent all six of their kids there,” said Loston Rowe, the second of the Rowe siblings to graduate from MSU, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) in 1984 and 1986, respectively.

The Tennessee resident, who was recognized as CALS’s Alumni Fellow in 2016, continued, “My siblings and I are proud MSU alums who bleed maroon and white because of the tireless efforts of our parents.”

"We wanted to honor them for all the inspiration and support they gave us and decided the best way to do that was to continue their legacy by giving back to other students in hopes that they will gain a quality education and achieve the career successes that we’ve enjoyed." ~ Loston Rowe

Loston, along with his siblings, James Darnell Rowe, a 1980 and 1987 graduate, of Stafford, Virginia; Demetric Rowe of Atlanta, Georgia; Lisa Rogers, class of 1988, of Grand Blanc, Michigan; Candais Hale, a graduate of 1991 and 1994, of Arlington, Texas; and Rita Jackson, a graduate of 1996 and 2001, of Lakeland, Tennessee, established the James Robert and Betty Rowe Endowed Scholarship in CALS earlier this year. Serving as a tribute to their agricultural upbringing, the gift also demonstrates their parents’ legacy of investing in higher education.

“We wanted to honor them for all the inspiration and support they gave us and decided the best way to do that was to continue their legacy by giving back to other students in hopes that they will gain a quality education and achieve the career successes that we’ve enjoyed,” Loston said.

The scholarship will assist full-time students in CALS who have demonstrated academic achievement and financial need. The award will also give preference to students from Monroe County, as well as members of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resource and Related Sciences (MANRRS).

In addition to the multi-year commitment for the endowment, the Rowe siblings have also contributed an outright gift for an annual scholarship in their parents’ names. The James Robert and Betty Rowe Annual Scholarship will provide immediate support while the endowment grows to maturity.

Dianna Wilson, a junior majoring in food science nutrition and health promotion from Norfolk, Virginia, is the inaugural recipient of the annual award. A first-generation college student, she is an active leader in and out of the classroom and currently serves as vice president of the MSU chapter of MANRRS.

“Receiving the Rowes’ scholarship has immensely impacted my student experience at MSU,” Wilson said. “Scholarship awards are very important to students, not just for the obvious financial reasons but also for the encouragement. It shows that someone believes in them and wants them to succeed.”

The James Robert and Betty Rowe Annual and Endowed Scholarships will continue to enable ambitious scholars, like Wilson, to pursue unsurpassed education and training in a developing industry without the added stress of financial burdens. Like the Rowe siblings, MSU alumni and friends alike have the opportunity to grow the university’s commitment to outstanding educational experiences, and in turn, bolster growth in our state and the world beyond.

“In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, we preach a lot about building the next generation of leaders, particularly those coming up through the agricultural industry, and we appreciate the Rowes putting this scholarship in place to help with our efforts,” said Scott Willard, associate dean and professor in the college. “This award is a very special way to not only honor James and Betty but also to support our students and build a legacy of giving for the next generation.”

After attending MSU, all six Rowe children went on to successful careers in various disciplines and geographies. Despite their wide-ranging interests, the siblings maintain their inherent Bulldog roots and the values instilled in them by their parents.

“In taking on the role of a mother, I was unable to continue my own education, so we decided to get behind our children to try to push them to do their best and be whatever God wanted them to be,” Betty said. “My prayer has always been that they would have positions in the world that would help someone else along the way and they have all succeeded at that.”

For more information on establishing scholarships in CALS, contact Jud Skelton, director of development for the college, at 662.325.0643 or jud.skelton@foundation.msstate.edu.

By Addie Mayfield