Professor Robert A. Callaway is the "Father" of the National Association of Landscape Professionals National Collegiate Landscape Competition. In 1969, the Horticulture Department at Mississippi State University decided to incorporate business courses into its offerings, with the idea of graduating students with strong horticulture skills, business training and Cooperative Education experience. The head of the department asked for leadership from the head of the Landscape Architecture department and Bob Callaway, then head of Campus Landscape and Retail Floral Management.

In 1970, the Landscape Contracting Curriculum offered its first courses. What started out as a source for training employees in family-owned nurseries or laborer/foremen trainees became one of the most successful landscape contracting programs in the U.S.

In 1975, a group from Michigan State University took a tour of southern nurseries and Bellengrath Gardens, stopping at Mississippi State University to thank Callaway for putting together a great trip for them. Mississippi State's landscape contracting students put together a picnic for the Michigan State group. Ron Smith, then program director at Ohio State University, heard about that visit, which led to a challenge between Mississippi State's Bob Callaway, Michigan State's Roy Mecklenburg and Ohio State's Ron Smith to see whose students had the best skills.

Mississippi State University was chosen as host of the event, and Callaway decided that he would invite some industry members to serve as judges and "legitimize" the event. At what became the first ALCA (now the National Association of Landscape Professionals) Field Days in 1977, 18 industry members showed up - all at their own expense — and five schools participated — Ohio State, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Mississippi State.

All together, there were nearly 200 participants — students, industry representatives and educators. Although there were no formal job interviews scheduled for the event, industry members ended up pulling students out of the social events to talk to them about job opportunities. In 1978, Mississippi State again hosted the competition and participation doubled — 57 industry people came to observe students "under pressure" and look at the event as a recruiting opportunity.

In 2017, 63 colleges and universities were in attendance with 674 students competing in 29 green industry related events. The students also had the opportunity to meet and interview with more than 80 companies who were participating in the career fair. More than 360 industry representatives were in attendance and supported the event as sponsors or with career fair booths.

In 1991, ALCA and its college advisors voted unanimously to name the traveling first-place trophy the Robert A. Callaway Award. We are proud to continue this tradition.

The challenge was made 42 years ago to see which student possessed the best skills. Let the events begin and may the best person win.

Chronological History of the National Collegiate Landscape Competition

1977 — Mississippi State University

1978 — Mississippi State University

1979 — Texas Tech

1980 — Ohio State

1981 — Milwaukee Area Technical College

1982 — Oklahoma State

1983 — Richland College

1984 — Ohio State, ATI

1985 — Mississippi State University

1986 — Oklahoma State University

1987 — Richland College

1988 — Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

1989 — Milwaukee Area Technical College

1990 — Colorado State University

1991 — University of Kentucky

1992 — Cal Poly Pomona

1993 — SUNY Cobleskill

1994 — University of Tennessee, Knoxville

1995 — North Metro Tech

1996 — Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

1997 — Richland College

1998 — North Carolina State University

1999 — University of Kentucky

2000 — Mississippi State University

2001 — Colorado State University

2002 — Illinois Central College

2003 — Hinds Community College

2004 — Columbus State Community College

2005 — University of Maryland

2006 — Brigham Young University, Provo

2007 — Michigan State University

2008 — North Metro Tech

2009 — Cal Poly Pomona

2010 — Chattahoochee Technical College, North Metro Campus

2011 — Joliet Junior College

2012 — Kansas State University

2013 — Auburn University

2014 — Colorado State University

2015 — North Carolina State University

2016 — Mississippi State University

2017 — Brigham Young University, Provo

2018 — Alamance Community College

Future National Collegiate Landscape Competition Sites:

2019 — Colorado State University

2020 — Michigan State University

2021 — Virginia Tech