Scholarship honors first female LSU agronomy graduate

In the 1940s, not many women enrolled in traditional production agriculture programs at LSU. You could find them in home economics, but not in agronomy.

Peggy Laborde on a cattle farm with her parents, Walker and Jenny Nolin.Photo provided by Andrea Laborde Barbier

That didn’t deter Peggy Laborde, then Peggy Nolin. She was an only child and assumed one day she may have to take over her family’s farm in the central Louisiana town of Hamburg. In 1947, she became the first female to graduate with a degree in agronomy from the LSU College of Agriculture.
“I grew up on a farm, so it was a natural for me. Two or three other girls came while I was there, but I was the first to graduate,” Laborde said.
In spring 2016, 75 percent of the students enrolled in the LSU College of Agriculture were female – quite a shift from when Laborde, who turned 90 on Aug. 10, attended LSU.
Laborde is giving back to the college where she was a pioneer and has established a scholarship in plant and soil systems, the program under which agronomy falls. Named for her and her late husband, The Lucien P. and Peggy N. Laborde Plant and Soil Systems Scholarship will help students interested in pursuing a degree in that program.
Laborde returned home after graduating from LSU and helped teach returning veterans the business of farming, but she never did take over her father’s farm. Instead she married in 1948. Lucien Laborde was a 1937 LSU agronomy graduate who had entered into business with her father after returning from War World II as a decorated lieutenant colonel.
She and her husband established Hamburg Mills Farm, where they grew white clover and raised cattle. There they raised their four children: Laura, Luke, Janine and Thomas.
Armed with her agronomy knowledge, Laborde said she was active in running the farm, but one thing she never learned to do was drive a tractor.
“I knew if I did, I would be on the tractor all the time,” she said.
Laborde said she and her husband instilled a love of agriculture in their children, with all four receiving degrees from the LSU College of Agriculture.
“Agriculture gave us a wonderful life. We thoroughly enjoyed our country living,” Laborde said. “It was long days, from sunup until past sundown, but we loved it.”
The couple supported LSU throughout their lives. Both were named outstanding alumni in the LSU College of Agriculture.
Lucien Laborde served as president of the LSU College of Agriculture Alumni Association, president of the LSU International Alumni Association and director of the LSU Foundation.
plabordeThey sponsored scholarships at LSU and established a professorship, the Walker T. Nolin Professorship in Agronomy, named for Peggy’s father.
Their children established the Lucien and Peggy Laborde Endowed Professorship in their parents’ honor and named an oak tree on the LSU campus for her. The tree stands on the side of Woodin Hall, which houses the College of Agriculture administrative offices.
Lucien aborde passed away in August 2015, and memorial gifts helped build the foundation for this scholarship.
“I want to encourage more young people to get in agriculture. Farming can be expensive for young people, but there are so many other fields related to agriculture they can get into,” Peggy Laborde said.