Three women honored by Human Environmental Sciences

Maddi Dyment

The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment held a panel discussion Friday with three distinguished Human Environmental Sciences Hall of Fame inductees.

The program annually honors individuals who have had a positive impact on the college, institution and their communities. This year’s inductees are Cherie L. Mingus, Marsha Herndon Purcell and Dr. Retia Scott Walker.

The panel gave these women a chance to share their past experiences at UK and in their respective industries. Although they come from different backgrounds, each is highly accomplished and represent UK’s HES program well.

Mingus, who graduated from UK in 1976 with a degree in Home Economics, went on to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. She reflected on not learning traditional home economics skills from her mother, as she was a working woman as a secretary. Mingus learned all her skills through high school. She came full-circle when she went on to accept a teaching position in this subject at Central Harden High School.

“I always joked that I was the most experienced inexperienced teacher,” Mingus said. “I loved my job and worked there until I retired many years later.”

Walker also found herself going down the education career path. She looked back to her days serving as a food service manager in New York, and eventually teaching high school for five years until moving on to higher education.

She found her start at Texas Women’s University, moving to the University of Maryland, until she found her final place at UK. She eventually became the Dean of the UK College of Human Environmental Sciences from 1994 to 2002 and UK’s vice president for academic outreach and public service from 2002 to 2005.

Some of her fondest memories, however, come from her extensive community work.

“I loved being involved with the Lexington community,” Walker said. “I got to see how much people were impacted by our work and that was something special.”

For her extensive service, she has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Purcell graduated from UK with her undergraduate and master’s degree in 1975. She said she originally wanted to work in fashion and retail.

“I quickly realized that it was not for me,” Purcell said.

Her next job was working for the Kentucky Farm Bureau as the director of women’s programs. Even though she showed up a day early for her interview, she was hired and began what was to become a 34-year career.

“I knew this was the job I was looking for,” Purcell said. “I just couldn’t see how they would want to hire someone who couldn’t even get the right date for the interview.”

This job eventually took her to receive many great accolades, including the development of “The Great American Farm” exhibition at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.

The three women all look fondly upon their years at UK. With Walker’s admiration of the Hall of Fame event, Purcell’s love of attending UK basketball games with the marching band, and Mingus’ fond memories of her times in Phi Mu, it is evident that their love for the school runs deep.

With so much experience in the room, the inductees also took the opportunity to give advice to the audience and any undergraduate student.

“Make sure you follow your dream and not someone else’s,” Mingus said.

“Enrich your life through volunteering and look for learning experiences,” Walker said.

“Find your passion and follow it, expect to have bumps in the road and learn from them, and take advantage of what’s made available to you,” Purcell said. “And always do your best and do what’s right.”