Mississippi State University hosted the National Collegiate Landscape Competition for the fifth time in 2016. The event will come full circle for the university since hosting the first NCLC in 1977. Robert A. Callaway, considered the “father” of NCLC, founded the event and was the first professor of the landscape contracting and management program at the university.

In addition to Callaway (Mississippi State), the other conveners were Roy Mecklenburg (Michigan State), and Ron Smith (Ohio State). The first ever competition gathered five schools and almost 200 attendees, including students, educators, advisers and industry representatives. The schools included: Ohio State, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Mississippi State.

Dr. Tim Schauwecker, coordinator of the landscape contracting and management program in the department of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, says the university has had a role of some historical significance in NCLC. Schauwecker attended Mississippi State, but did not attend NCLC as a student. “I helped raise money for the kids who did go to NCLC, but I was doing internships, mostly in Florida,” he says. Schauwecker’s first exposure to NCLC was as an adviser.

Although Callaway died in 1995, Schauwecker believes the legacy of Callaway is still present at Mississippi State. He says Callaway’s intention was to create a close association between students and industry—something that exists today with the NCLC. The other influence is that the landscape contracting program is still part of the landscape architecture department, whereas most of the other programs are concentrated in horticulture.

Mississippi State students recently made available a 1989 interview with Callaway about the history of the landscape contracting program and the challenges in creating a brand-new curriculum.

Highlights of the interview include:

  • Callaway ran a horticultural center in Jackson, Mississippi, for about 12 years, and his wife suggested that he return to college for a degree. In 1968, Callaway arrived at Mississippi State campus with his wife and two small children.
  • Clyde Singletary, then head of the horticultural department, suggested to Callaway a degree in landscape contracting, which meant a slight deviation from a horticultural degree. This differed from Callaway’s view of landscape contracting.
  • The leadership of the horticultural department recognized a void between professional landscape architects, horticulturists and the nurseryman installing the plants. This is where the seed was planted for the landscape contracting degree.
  • Callaway was critical of things he saw in the horticulture department and felt the program trained research people and scientists. At the time, the industry exploded and required more business skills from students, but, as Callaway observed, the students were not adequately prepared and necessary skills were not being addressed in the current curriculum.
  • Singletary secured the approval for a landscape contracting degree and Callaway guided the process. The goal was to house the landscape contracting program in the department of landscape architecture.
  • Callaway discusses in the video the development of the program, which included defining the duties to be performed by a landscape contractor and creating a curriculum that mirrored this definition.
  • Callaway emphasized the need for landscape contracting students to take business courses, despite opposition from the business school, and the cooperative education component.

The entire YouTube video with historic and rare footage of Callaway can be viewed here: