Willow Tree Farm owner establishes URI scholarship

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 18, 2003 — After graduating from the University of Rhode Island in 1954, Chet Cekala’s first job was at an egg farm in Attleboro. It’s the only place he ever worked. He bought out the business eight years later and turned it into the most successful poultry farm in the region, selling New England’s most popular chicken pies and chicken salad.
During his years building the business, Cekala remained in contact with his alma mater and his URI friends. As he and his wife Eileen make plans to attend his 50th class reunion next spring, Cekala has made a $15,000 contribution to URI to establish the Chester Cekala and Eileen Cekala Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will benefit students from the North Attleboro area.

“It’s payback time,” Cekala said at a recent luncheon celebrating his new scholarship. “It’s a pleasure to be able to do this. The University needs money, the students need money, and we’re happy to provide it.”
The Cekala’s have always worked as a team on all of their business activities, and both have been strong supporters of URI for many years. They are equally dedicated to the community of North Attleboro by regularly providing funds for the town’s athletic programs.

“We are committed to our little town of North Attleboro, and with this scholarship we’re able to continue that commitment forever for students who want to go to URI,” he said.

Cekala noted that his fellow students from the URI class of 1954 have remained more closely connected to the University than have most other classes. They have an active alumni committee, and many of them have been socializing regularly for years. He and his classmates will lead the procession into the URI commencement ceremony in May 2004

“Chet and Eileen have been great friends to the University of Rhode Island for a long time. They support the annual fund; they support athletics; and whenever they attend a basketball game we always seem to win,” said Katherine Horoschak, URI senior development officer for the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity and enthusiasm.”

Cekala’s success came about through his commitment to giving his customers exactly what they wanted. When he started selling chicken pies to supermarkets in 1966, he learned that consumers preferred that they be made entirely of white meat. So that’s what he did. He followed the same suggestion when it came to his award-winning chicken salad as well. Today the company cooks 15,000 pounds of chicken every day. Included in its product line is chicken soup, chicken croquets, chicken a la king, chicken cacciatore and egg salad.
“Anybody could have done it if they did it like we do. The customer comes first and we make everything by hand,” Cekala said.