By Stephanie Schell / Who’s That? editor

Webster’s dictionary defines horticulture as the science of growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. John Duvall prefers to describe it as “ornamental value.”

Not to be confused with agriculture, which Duvall decsribes as basic farming.

Horticulture is a branch of the agriculture department in which a student can receive a degree.

“Ornamental value,” decoration, dainty flowers, trees and turf used to enhance the appearance of any structure or grounds area.

Grounds area including football and baseball fields. These were places Duvall used to tear up with his high school teammates instead of making them appealing.

Duvall began college as any other student.

He came to get his education but used the first two and a half years to find his niche.

At first, Duvall thought he wanted to be involved in the athletic program.

Athletics was what he was used to from high school.

Duvall played football in high school but really wanted to be around baseball.

So, he became a trainer for the baseball team and became an expert ankle taper.

He knew at the college level it would take a lot to really make it as an athletic trainer.

He remained undeclared until a shrub-and-tree-identification class sparked a hidden interest in Duvall.

“I enjoyed it; I just stuck with it,” Duvall said. “The ag department made me feel welcome.”

He describes them as one big family, which is nice for Duvall being an only child.

Duvall stays extremely busy with his extra curricular activities.

He is an active member of the Horticulture Club, Delta Tau Alpha, Golf Course Superintendent Association of America and Kentucky Turfgrass Council.

Outside of Eastern, Duvall is a member of First Christian Church of Irvine, where he volunteers his voice for worship.

Duvall could easily get lost in the mix of school, church and club memberships.

This is why he devotes most of his school time to the Horticulture Club.

This is where he holds the most responsibility.

As president for his second term of the Horticulture Club, Duvall is comfortable with his team.

Most officers are back from last year for another term.

The Horticulture Club does more than plant pretty flowers and trees for eye candy.

They use their expertise to raise money along with other clubs in which he is involved.

The Horticulture Club sells poinsettias and Delta Tau Alpha has a bedding plant sell to raise money for scholarships.

But the biggest issue for Duvall right now is the salvation of a garden behind the Carter Building.

The issue was recently resolved when head members of the agriculture department and engineers responsible for the design met to negotiate a new design for the parking lot and road to avoid obstruction of the garden.

“There are rare species of plants and thousands of dollars worth of irrigation systems that were donated,” Duvall said of the endangered garden. “They had already surveyed and began leveling.”

A meeting with engineers held Tuesday saved most of the garden.

Before, according to Duvall, about half of the garden was going to be destroyed.

“They might not even touch it at all,” Duvall said of the new design. “The new design is cheaper for the engineers too.”

This was big news for Duvall and the whole agriculture department.

Duvall doesn’t just use his talent for school purposes.

He does actual landscaping projects for duplex grounds.

He has big plans for his future other than small, decorative projects.

“I want to be head grounds keeper for an athletic stadium,” Duvall said.

This is a way for him to combine his love for sports and horticulture.

When asked where his dream job would take place he quickly replied, ” … for the Pittsburgh Stealers. I’m a huge Stealers fan. I want to be on the East Coast.’

The only future project Duvall is focused on now is graduating.

He will be completing his sixth year upon graduation.

“I wanted to stick around for Mr. Knight’s retirement,” Duvall joked about his adviser and six-year college career. “I have a fear of graduating into the real world.”

Duvall admits his friends call him “Van Wilder” after the character in the movie.

His long college career and golf-cart-sized car are to blame for the nickname.

“One more year and I would be the real Van Wilder,” Duvall said of being a professional student.

The agriculture department will probably say goodbye to Duvall in May of 2005.

He leaves fellow students with a bit of advice he seems to live by himself.

“The real thing about college – come to school to learn. Have fun, don’t get too crazy, but have some fun,” Duvall said.

Reach Stephanie at

stephanie_schell@eku.edu