Venker family establishes fund for diversity, equity and inclusion

November 28, 2022

Michael and Debra Benedict Venker donated $50,000 to establish the Venker Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Scholarship for the College of Agriculture.  

The scholarship supports two demographically underrepresented students throughout their four years at LSU. The Venker family hopes the fund gives students financial support and encouragement to make the most out of their collegiate careers. 

“I want students to know that there are people rooting for them to be successful,” said Michael Venker. “I feel that there is a responsibility that works two ways, a responsibility for me to give and then for the student to work hard and make the most out of their experience.” 

Michael Venker graduated from LSU in 1978 with a degree in agricultural business. His education at LSU set the foundation for supporting diversity throughout his career and inspired him to give back to the College of Agriculture. 

“My time at LSU really shaped who I am today and set me up to be successful in my career, and because of that, I want to give back,” he said. 

Venker spent most of his career at Cargill, Inc., a global food corporation based in the United States. 

“During my career with Cargill, I had the opportunity to work with many people from all over the world with diverse backgrounds,” said Venker. “I realize that there are strengths in every culture and that having diversity builds a more powerful community.” 

He encourages alumni and industry partners to strengthen diversity in agriculture through mentoring students from different backgrounds. 

“Even if you cannot give financially, you can give advice to a student through mentorship,” he said. “You may share your career knowledge, but also the students share their background and life story with you, which can help you grow as a professional and learn about diversity.” 

Last year, the Venker family created a $5 million planned gift to fund scholarships in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness and scholarships for students in the College of Agriculture with diverse backgrounds.