Lamont Cunningham, Master Gardener Emeritus
In academia, a professor who retires after serving his or her University and scholastic discipline long and well may be granted the title Professor Emeritus. This means that the professor retains an office at the university, has access to university resources, and is accorded a great deal of respect. Not everyone gets this title. Actually, few attain it.
Master Gardeners are volunteers under the auspices of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Program, administered by the Texas A&M University System. There have been a few instances where master gardeners have served with such distinction that they have been accorded the title Texas Master Gardener Emeritus upon retirement. These master gardeners retain some privileges that active master gardeners are given, as well as being listed on the Texas Master Gardener Emeritus website and being accorded the respect of their peers.
To date there have been just 14 people who have been awarded the title of Texas Master Gardener Emeritus. The latest is Lamont Cunningham. Lamont entered the master gardener program in 1997, the second year it was offered in Hunt County. He has served tirelessly since then. He served the entire Texas community, both master gardeners and consumers, with his presentations on the history of Extension. He gave it to each master gardener class in Hunt County, to civic clubs and organizations, and to anyone else that asked.
However, his biggest contribution has been the spearheading of the creation of the Heritage Garden of Hunt County. Without him it likely would not have happened. He is in the back row of the hose cutting, beside Judge Bobbitt, the County Judge at that time.
When Lamont decided to retire, it was clear he deserved Emeritus status for both his spearheading of the Heritage Garden of Hunt County and his work on the history of Extension. Calls were made and paperwork was filed. To be accorded this honor, the paperwork has to reach the Regents for the Texas A&M System and be voted on.
On Thursday, March 24th, the plaque and certificate making things official were presented to Lamont Cunningham by Sara Allen, Hunt County Extension Agent. Lamont became the 14th Texas Master Gardener Emeritus. Lamont said a few words about how much Extension meant to him and how much this honor meant. Then his wife, Sarah, read a letter from their daughter expressing how proud she was of her Dad. Then it was over and Lamont and Sarah left. Lamont’s contributions, however, will continue to live as long as there are master gardeners in Hunt County and people who benefit from Extension in Texas.