Joe Hirsch Legacy Equine Academy Scholarship Awarded to UK’s Charles Churchill

Charles Churchill, a University of Kentucky senior majoring in Equine Science and Management from Louisville, has been awarded the 2021/2022 Joe Hirsch Legacy Equine Academy Scholarship.

The scholarship was originally established at UK in 2005 but to keep in step with current industry needs, was recently modified to include a preference for diverse students to encourage inclusivity throughout the equine industry. It now resides in UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which is home to the Equine Science and Management undergraduate degree program. The scholarship was made possible by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Daily Racing Form and many other contributors and is coordinated in conjunction with the Legacy Equine Academy.

“I am extremely grateful for the Joe Hirsch Legacy Academy Scholarship Fund because it has provided me with additional funds to allow me to continue my studies at the University of Kentucky,” Churchill said. “I am very new to the equine program, as I formally applied to alter my major at the top my junior year. By transferring into the program, I look forward to pursuing my interests in the executive management of racetracks. I hope to do this by utilizing UK’s curriculum to develop my knowledge on various direct and indirect economic contributions of wagering and necessary protocol required for a successful racing program in respective jurisdictions.”

Since becoming an equine major, Churchill said he has joined organizations that can assist him in becoming the professional he aspires to be. He is a member of the UK Horse Racing Club, the UK Collegiate Professional Horsemen’s Association and a Wildcat Wrangler, the student ambassador team within the equine major.

“Not only have these clubs provided me with a network of young professionals that I can discuss industry topics with, but it has given others the opportunity to share their unique perspective and life experiences, allowing us to formulate genuine, lifelong friendships with other students in the College of Agriculture,” Churchill said. “By completing my college career at Kentucky, I am exposed to an extremely caring group of faculty members as well as a network of likeminded students who are capable of compassion and helping their fellow members of the agriculture community.”

Churchill completed an internship with the Keeneland track maintenance team during the summer of 2021.

“The racing industry would not exist and could not function without the contributions of the Black community and people of color. We at the NTRA are committed to supporting the communities we serve. Last year, we embarked on an initiative to create greater diversity and cultural awareness at all levels of the business, including positions of power, by collaborating with Legacy Equine Academy,” said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and chief executive officer. “Through this venture, the NTRA will help fund scholarships for students in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Equine Programs with the intent of fostering a more inclusive Thoroughbred racing industry for generations to come. Change cannot wait, so we will work with all of our racing partners to further the goal of a more diverse, inclusive environment for all participants in our sport.”

James MacLeod, director of UK Ag Equine Programs, agreed. “There is no reason to delay efforts to address diversity and inclusivity challenges. Academic scholarships enable students to focus entirely on educational opportunities and reach their full potential. We are very grateful to the NTRA and partners for their support,” he said.

The Legacy Equine Academy, which encourages students in grades 6–12 to attend college and pursue equine, agriculture, natural resources and environmental science degrees, is the brainchild of Ronald Mack, the organization’s founder and CEO.

“We are so proud and excited for Charles to receive the Joe Hirsch Legacy Equine Academy Scholarship,” Mack said. I’ve admired his passion for equine studies and his determination to leverage that passion by pursuing an array of professional opportunities in the horse racing industry. This scholarship contributes to accomplishing Legacy Equine Academy’s goal of bridging the historical contributions of African American trailblazers in horse racing history to the modern standards and professional opportunities in the equine industry. Charles is a true ‘Legacy Leader.’”

The scholarship had originally been placed into the UK College of Communication and Information because UK didn’t at that time have an equine undergraduate program. The Equine Science and Management undergraduate degree was launched in 2007 and since then has become one of the fastest growing majors at the university and is now currently the largest major in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, making it a natural fit to administer the scholarship.

Writer: Holly Wiemers:

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 UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

Holly Wiemers