It’s been said, and repeated many times, the UK College of Agriculture is like a big family. One reason is probably because so many generations of families attend and graduate from the College of Agriculture. Just three examples of many are the Ellis family, the Cultons and the Halls.
Eugene and Maggie Culton raised 10 children on their family farm in Parksville and dreamed their children would go to college. Prompted by their involvement with the Cooperative Extension Service and 4-H, seven of the 10 Culton siblings enrolled in the Colleges of Agriculture or Home Economics. One brother, Tom, ’38, even got his doctorate in poultry science from UK.
“We were so comfortable attending UK,” said Helen Culton Price, ’42. “Because of all the connections we had with UK through Extension, we didn’t think of going any place else.”
That comfort level was evident in young Helen, then a senior at Parksville High School. Needing a commencement speaker for graduation, she decided to ask Francis McVey, wife of then UK president Frank McVey, to address the class. Price made the trip to Lexington and rang the doorbell of Maxwell Place, the UK president’s home.
“Mrs. McVey said to me, ‘Child, I’m not the speaker in this family. You want my husband,’” Price remembers.
So UK President Frank McVey was the commencement speaker for the Parksville High School 1938 graduating class of six girls and one boy.
In 2006, the Cultons were the first recipients of the Family of the Year award given to the family with a history of dedicated service and attendance to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and School of Human Environmental Sciences. The Cultons have strongly supported various scholarships and established two UK professorships. They contributed toward the renovation of E.S. Good Barn and named the Culton Suite in memory and honor of their parents.
The Culton-UK connection will continue this fall when Price's great-great niece Alexis Thompson, from Arizona, enrolls as a freshman.
The Ellises were a farm family who saved and scraped to send their 11 children to college in the 1940s post-Depression era. Eight of them came to UK.
“It was always talked about that we would go to college,” said Shirley Ellis Sheperson, ’52. “Our parents watched their money, my mother made our clothes, we had jobs on campus, and we didn’t go home very much.”
For Sheperson and her sister Jewell Deene Ellis, ’51, a train trip back to Lexington from their Forkland home in Boyle County might have deterred students with less resolve. A huge snowfall over the Thanksgiving weekend found the women scrambling to get back to campus. The train out of Danville was full, so Sheperson and Ellis were forced to ride in a freight car with no seats. It was standing room only, except for one passenger who was lying down… in a box. The corpse made the ride more than a little creepy for the sisters.
They returned to campus only to find out Monday classes were cancelled.
Sheperson and Ellis earned home economics degrees, and eventually sisters Barbara Ellis Taylor, ’54, Wilma Ellis Ewbank, ’59, Kaye Ellis Thurman, ’68, and Karen Ellis Marsee, ’71, followed them to UK to graduate in home economics, too. Brothers Cecil and Dale attended the College of Agriculture. The UK-Ellis Family tree has many, many branches. A total of 18 children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren of Sheperson’s parents, Cecil and Alma Ellis, have attended UK, and 13 of those have attended the College of Agriculture and the School of Human Environmental Sciences.
Family members have established two endowed scholarships in Human Environmental Sciences and the College. Sheperson, Ellis, and Taylor are members of the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences Hall of Fame.
“The education and training this family received from the University of Kentucky has produced administrators, teachers, extension agents, college professors, business and agricultural leaders, and loyal alumni who continue to support the University,” Taylor said.
Julia Hall says one of her lasting memories as a child is of her dad, Robert “Bob” Hall, hosting an annual reunion for his UK Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity brothers—a tradition he still maintains. “I saw that camaraderie at a very early age between Dad and his fraternity brothers. They are still best friends today.”
Maybe that’s what inspired Julia and her brother Lee to follow their father to the University of Kentucky. Bob Hall, ’53, competed on both the livestock and meat judging teams while at UK. He and his wife Bonnie, Lee, and Julia are celebrating 47 years in business at Farmers Feed Mill in Lexington. Bob Hall purchased the business on Price Avenue in 1964 before building the current location on Loudon Avenue in 1986.
“I said nobody but a fool would have done that, because it was the worst time in the horse industry, low cattle prices, and high interest,” he said. “Lenders thought we were fools because of the economic situation. But I figured somebody was going to build it in Lexington, it just as well be us, so we bit the bullet and went after it.”
Hall’s hunch paid off. Hallway Feeds, the Halls’ brand name, is recognized globally. In fact, the international business is one of their fastest growing segments, with the equine industry accounting for 85 to 90 percent.
Bob Hall is president, Lee Hall, ’83, serves as vice president and oversees the day-to-day operations. Julia Hall, ’86, is vice president of IncrediPet in Lexington, a division of Hallway Feeds.
Lee Hall competed on the livestock judging team just like his dad. He says the principles he learned still guide him today.
“Like recommending a product to a client, you have to be able to support that, just like we had to do in livestock judging—giving reasons and having to defend those reasons before the judges,” he said.