STARKVILLE, Miss. – To honor a man who advanced Mississippi agriculture by innovative efforts on his farm and through his coalition with agricultural education, research and leadership organizations, Mississippi State University is establishing the Rick Parsons Scholarship.

Mississippi State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has announced that all proceeds from the 2004 annual Mississippi Agriculture Open Golf Tournament will go to fund a $50,000 endowed scholarship in honor and memory of Mr. Parsons.

Mr. Parsons, a Delta cotton, soybean, corn and rice farmer and a 1970 graduate of MSU, died unexpectedly at his home in Vance, Miss., Feb. 16

The tournament will be held at 10 a.m. on the MSU Golf Course, Aug. 13. The format is a four-man scramble with a $1,000 donation per team or $150 for individual players. A portion of the fee is tax deductible. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the $100 a plate, pre-tournament dinner at MSU on Aug. 12.

“The endowment will be used to provide annual academic awards in perpetuity for deserving students in CALS,” says Jud Skelton, director of development for CALS. “Money raised from the tournament and dinner will help fund the scholarship. We’ve received more than $12,000 in donations and hope to exceed our $50,000 goal by the end of the summer.”

Parsons, who was 56 at his death, farmed more than 9,000 acres of cotton and grain and served numerous state and national agricultural organizations through membership and leadership roles.

He is remembered throughout the agricultural community for his dedication to problem solving and willingness to be the first to try new ideas.

“In addition to his love for his family, of which he spoke often, Rick Parsons was an innovator in production agriculture having had the vision to use precision agriculture technology early on in conjunction with crop rotation, yield monitors, field mapping, aerial imagery and variable rate applications,” says friend and fellow farmer, Kenneth Hood of Gunnison.

“Besides being one of my closest friends, Rick had a special way of touching everyone he associated with because of his divine sincerity to listen, whether related to personal or business questions,” Hood says.

“He had the unique ability to assess problems from a number of different perspectives and offer workable solutions,” adds Hood. “I cherished his friendship even more when perhaps things would seem not be pressing forward as projected and his dry sense of humor would kick in and soon everyone would be back in harmony.

“I had the privilege of serving on a number of committees with Rick, and we traveled together quite often. I will always remember these special times and will never forget the camaraderie of my true friend.”

Earl Manning of Memphis, former editor with the Progressive Farmer magazine and also a MSU alumnus, remembers Parsons’ welcoming attitude to everyone who stopped by his home or office.

“I had a habit of dropping by Rick's during planting, spraying or harvesting to shoot stock photos,” says Manning. “Rick was always gracious to let us ‘go where you want to go, do what you want to do’ anywhere on the farm. He was one of those automatic sources you could count on, and he was honest, reliable and helpful to a fault. He was never too busy to help a struggling ag journalist desperate for a story, a quote or a favor.”

Former MSU Extension cotton specialist Will McCarty, who now serves as the agricultural program leader for the organization, worked closely with Rick throughout his 20- plus years as a cotton specialist.

“Rick was a great friend to me and to Mississippi agriculture,” says McCarty. “He pushed through numerous barriers to establish one of the highest yielding and efficiently managed row crop operations in Mississippi.

“Rick was generous in his time and with access to his operation. Through the years, Rick's farm was often chosen for agricultural management verifications and trials including variety plots, precision farming applications, nematode management and fertility management. The information gathered as a direct result of Rick's cooperation was a tremendous benefit to Mississippi agriculture,” adds McCarty. “I'm sure he would be humbled but honored by the establishment of this scholarship.”

Anyone interested in taking part in the golf tournament or in making a donation to the scholarship fund should contact Skelton at 662-325-0643 or by e-mail at jskelton @foundation.msstate.edu.

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com