Dr. Harry Ponder, current Shumack Endowed Professor of Horticulture at Auburn University, is retiring this week. He has been without a doubt the most influential person in the history of the green industry. For over 40 years he has taught students and maintained a 100% placement record after graduation. Then after initial placement he stays in touch with all of his students helping them navigate their careers. Like every great teacher, he can tell you where almost every one of his students of 40 years are today. When I was with Dr. Ponder earlier this week, he shared a lesson that I will never forget. Here it is:
One of the first things that he does with a new class is ask them, "What is your favorite restaurant?" Everyone goes around the room and shares a different restaurant. Then he asks, "Why is it your favorite restaurant?" Each student goes around and describes something uniquely different about their favorite restaurant. Usually there is something unique about a particularly meal or experience that makes them love it. After everyone takes a turn, Dr. Ponder says, "In 40 years of doing this excercise, no one has ever mentioned price. When you enter the green industry, create a value and experience that people will remember, and don't worry about trying to be the cheapest price."
Thank you Dr. Ponder for what you have done for the Green Industry and for all of the people you have helped along the way. You will remain an inspiration to us all. Enjoy those grandkids!