Published on 05/12/10

Sisters' support earns honors at UGA graduation

By J. Faith Peppers

The life story of Celestia Loden and Minnie Foster is a profound portrait of America’s promise: Hard work, persistence and dedication lead to a rewarding life. The vision of that promise fulfilled was not lost on University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences graduates as they watched the 94- and 86-year-old sisters receive the college’s Medallion of Honor for Service during May 8 commencement exercises.

For more than 25 years, the sisters have shared their rich wisdom with CAES students who receive the Harold and Celestia Loden Endowed Scholarship, a perpetual scholarship that has been awarded each year since 1984.

When Loden’s husband, Harold, retired as executive vice president of the American Seed Trade Association in 1983, friends established the scholarship to benefit CAES upperclassmen. In 1992, the scholarship was amended to focus on students seeking support for international study programs.

“Minnie and Celestia are strong supporters of our college and our students,” said J. Scott Angle, CAES dean and director. “The scholarship funds they provide help our students gain a well-rounded education. And the sage advice and wisdom they generously share are a gift our students will benefit from for the rest of their lives.”

The Medallion, the college’s highest award, is given each year to honor those who serve the college and the agricultural industry.

“Graduation is one of the happiest times in our lives,” Foster said in her graduation remarks. “It’s a happy time for parents, especially for some who have made this day possible by hardship and sacrifices, and for you graduates, who have worked long and hard for this long-awaited occasion. It’s an especially eventful day for me and my sister, Celestia. We were so delighted and surprised to have been chosen as the recipients of your most prestigious award, the Medallion of Honor.”

Family ties

The sisters’ appreciation for CAES comes through Loden’s husband. Harold Loden earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in agronomy from CAES and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. After spending five years in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, he was appointed assistant, and later associate, professor of agronomy at UGA.

In 1950, he was named the first director of the UGA College Experiment Station in Athens. When Harold Loden retired, the couple moved back to Athens and became active supporters of the college. After his death in 2001, Celestia Loden, joined by her sister, continued to support CAES students.

“This is an honor that means so much to us and represents the shared love and respect we have for all of you in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences,” Foster said.

Generation to generation

Citing their longevity and life experience credentials, Foster then gave advice to the new graduates as they seek careers in today’s marketplace.

“In any generation this might be a real obstacle in recognizing your ambitions as you begin a new phase of life. However, this economy especially presents a real challenge to your future,” she said. Foster then encouraged graduates to have a firm belief in themselves, their abilities and a higher being to direct them to the right course.

“You certainly have been well prepared by a faculty of one of the most outstanding universities in the country, and you owe them your gratitude,” she said. “Now it’s time for you to make your mark out there in a world that has a specific place for you.”

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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