By Myra Rice
Lynette Latham McDougald, business manager for the University Florist and horticulture instructor at Mississippi State University, has established a career as lively as the masterpieces she creates.
Born in Eupora, McDougald is no stranger to rustic southern living. She said she remembers loving the outdoors and working with flowers from an early age.
“I lived in Eupora for 18 years, and I liked playing outside,” she said.
McDougald said she can recall growing flowers with her uncle as a little girl.
“My uncle had a nursery in Eupora 30 miles from here, and by the time I graduated high school, I was running the nursery,” McDougald said.
Her passion and love for flowers does not start and stop with her childhood. A passion for flowers has been passed down from generation to generation.
“My grandmother did flowers, so I’ve just been around it,” she said.
McDougald said she remembers being a tomboy as a little girl and was not afraid to get her hands dirty.
“Floral design girls are tomboys who deal with dirty work and it is not all fluff. You got to be a little tough,” McDougald said.
Given her early start in plants, McDougald continued her passion for horticulture while attending Mississippi State University.
“I came to State as a sophomore in 1977 as an accounting major. I took business law and hated it,” McDougald said.
“My father didn’t like the idea, so I quietly changed my major to horticulture.”
McDougald’s hidden love for plants would soon be seen by the world. Her talent took her more than 300 miles away to New York City.
“I helped to buy flowers for the fourth season of ‘The Sopranos’ and worked on a team of floral designers at the Rockefeller Center in New York with over 3,000 celebrities in attendance. It was the big one,” McDougald said.
McDougald is no stranger to hard work, and her position at MSU reflects just that. The floral shop is a priority to McDougald from the start of her day.
“My day starts by looking at the fresh flower market. I have to hit those things quick and get up and see what is happening,” McDougald said.
Jim DelPrince, who has worked as a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at MSU for 22 years, said he sees McDougald as nothing short of successful.
“I have known Lynette since the mid-1990s. She was an excellent student in my class and knew all her plant material,” he said.
DelPrince said he not only sees McDougald as a memorable student but also as a memorable friend.
“Lynette is a friend who is talented, very talented,” DelPrince said.
Kailie Dunlap, senior horticulture floral management and business major, said McDougald is serious about her job, yet fun-loving.
“She is very fun and has her own way of doing things. We go by what she says,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap said McDougald possesses a motherly and caring nature with her students.
“Ms. Lynette is like my second mom. She actually cares about her students and their personal lives. She wants to see us succeed,” Dunlap said.
McDougald said she takes her job at MSU seriously and wants her student workers to be equipped for the seriousness of the job.
“I tell my students I’m like E.F. Hutton. When I talk, everyone needs to listen. I watch everything they do because we cannot fail,” McDougald said.