Industry mourns Rick Schoellhorn’s passing
Richard (“Rick”) Kent Schoellhorn, retired director of new products for Proven Winners, died Nov. 25 after a two-year struggle with lung cancer. He was 66. His California roots provided him a love of plants and that lifelong passion developed into a successful career in the horticulture industry.
Schoellhorn started at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1975, but decided to develop a larger perspective and explored Alaska with his sister, Janine. After leaving Alaska, he moved to Colorado where he worked in various landscaping and nursery positions.
In 1989, Rick completed a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at Colorado State University and later moved to Gainesville, Florida, to pursue graduate study. In 1995, he completed a doctorate degree in horticulture from the University of Florida and served as a professor, first at the Research & Education Center in Milton, then the main campus in Gainesville in 2001.
“Rick had been in horticulture for a long time and had been a plant person forever. He really kicked off his professional career at UF as an educator and he was just a great educator. He taught me so much about everything, so it was really great to be able to work alongside him for the first nine months when we overlapped. The depth of his knowledge was just incredible.” Kevin Hurd, vice president of product development for Proven Winners, said.
Over his career, Schoellhorn was a notable speaker, garden consultant, volunteer in the local community and even a television host. However, in 2005, he left his teaching role to pursue a new path with Proven Winners as its director of new products.
Proven Winners has renamed its grower scholarship to honor him. The new name for the scholarship is now The Rick Schoellhorn – Proven Winners Grower Excellence Scholarship. It’s one of three $5,000 scholarships that Proven Winners offers to students in four-year universities.
“It’s perfect because it honors Rick both as a plantsman and as an educator. He has a passion for growing and he’s worked in all aspects of the industry. So we felt it was important to memorialize him and remember his legacy as that educator and strong horticulturalist. It’s a nice gesture for the industry to keep his name going and active, and then it’s also a really nice gesture for his wife and son,” Hurd said.
Once Schoellhorn retired, he began to cultivate begonias. With this new endeavor, he traveled and began writing a book on begonia cultivation and was active in the American Begonia Society.
“There was kind of an inside joke that Rick would go through different plant phases. He’d get very hyper-focused on one genus. He kind of started with coleus and then after he retired, he jumped into begonias,” Hurd shared. “He probably knew the basic amount when he jumped into it and it was just mind-blowing the depth and breadth of knowledge of begonias he acquired. He just fell in love and that was his passion for the last 11 years.”
“Rick’s passion and curiosity guided not only his professional life, but his vibrant home and social life,” the obituary shared. “The gardens he created at his family home were a popular destination for garden tours and the setting for the many parties and social gatherings he and Linda hosted.”
“Rick is probably one of the most-liked people in the entire industry. He had a magnetic personality. He was really funny. And if he was sitting at a table, he was never sitting by himself. That table was instantly full,” Hurd said.
Schoellhorn is survived by Linda, his wife of 39 years, son Eran, brother Carlos, sister Janine, granddaughters Lydia and Cora, and a community of extended family, friends, and colleagues. He was preceded in death by his sister Paquita and his parents Henry and Sara.
There is no service scheduled at this time, but there will be a celebration of Schoellhorn’s life in the future that will be held in his “backyard sanctuary.”