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AFE Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) has announced the Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year award. Designed to recognize an outstanding student who has participated in the Vic & Margaret Ball Internship program, this award pays special tribute to the late Dr. Paul Thomas, retired professor at the University of Georgia, who passed away in 2019.The Vic & Margaret Ball Internship program was established in 1992 to provide students the opportunity to gain practical experience while training at a commercial production greenhouse or nursery. Students intern away from home/school for a period of 3-6 months and receive a scholarship upon completion – up to $6,000!

All students who successfully complete a Vic & Margaret Ball Internship will automatically qualify for this annual recognition, which includes paid travel and hotel to Cultivate, free registration to Cultivate, $500 cash, a feature story in AFE’s publications, and networking opportunities with AFE Trustees and the Young Professionals Council during Cultivate.Read about our recipient’s experiences in their Cultivate reports below!

AFE Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year Award Recipients:

2023Emily Larsen, University of Wisconsin – River Falls (Paul Thomas Floriculture Production Intern of the Year), Hannah Kramer, Iowa State University (Honorable Mention), and Zach Rosenkrans, Kansas State University (Honorable Mention)

2022Holly Barrus, University of Idaho, and William Billmeyer, Kirkwood Community College (Cultivate Report – Holly) (2022 Cultivate Report – William)

2021Sherman Hartman, Iowa State University (2021 Cultivate Report)

2020 Renata Goossen, Kansas State University (2021 Cultivate Report)

Paul Thomas served as Professor of Horticulture and Extension Floriculture Specialist at the University of Georgia from 1990 until he retired on August 31, 2019. He was a huge supporter of student internships and AFE’s Vic & Margaret Ball Internship program and helped mentor hundreds of students. After his retirement, he served as an Academic Ambassador for the Endowment, traveling to Universities and colleges to promote the internship program. He held this position only a few short weeks before he passed away.In a promotional video created with the help of Dr. Thomas about the Ball Internship program, he stated

“I think as faculty members, we owe it to the students to give them the opportunities that allow them to work and get the experience necessary to be competitive. Isn’t that why we’re here?”

His passion and love for the floral industry and his students is the reason the Vic & Margaret Ball Committee named this internship of the year in his honor.

“AFE administers nearly a dozen scholarships, provides grants, and oversees three internship programs. It’s exciting to recognize an outstanding student who has excelled with their internship, and to provide them with an additional learning experience at Cultivate,” says Randy Tagawa, former chairman of the Vic & Margaret Ball Committee. “These types of learning experiences for students is what Dr. Thomas was so passionate about and makes this new award even more special.”

For more information about the Vic & Margaret Ball Internship Program, visit endowment.org/internships.