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GREEN LAKE – Five people who have dedicated their time, talents and resources in helping to make the best better for 4-H youth across the state of Wisconsin were inducted into the 4-H Youth Development Hall of Fame at Green Lake Conference Center on Nov. 2.

“We see the impact your volunteer service makes today and are encouraged to think how 4-H youth will shape the families, communities, and our world,” said Dondieneita Fleary-Simmons, Wisconsin 4-H Program Manager in a news release. “We know that bright futures are more possible because of all you do. We cannot thank you enough for making it happen!”

According to 4-H Youth Development, the Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame was established to recognize 4-H volunteers, financial supporters, staff and pioneers who made major contributions to the 4-H movement at the local, state and national levels.

The candidates represent 4-H in the broadest sense – people who had an impact on the lives of children, their community or state through significant contributions of time, energy or financial resources to 4-H and its members.

2019 Hall of Fame Laureates

Greg Hutchins, WI 4-H Youth Development Director—joined the University of Wisconsin-Extension as State 4-H Youth Development Director and Assistant Dean in 1994, following 20 years of Extension 4-H Youth Development work in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Alabama. He served 15 years as the Wisconsin State 4-H Director. In 2009 he left 4-H Youth work and began new administrative duties in the Extension Vice Chancellor’s office.

After a 41-year Extension career, Greg retired in 2015 as Associate Vice Chancellor of UW-Extension. Greg believed in the civic value of the 4-H community club. He saw it as a laboratory where youth participated in democratic practices and self-governance, while also serving their community and growing through new relationships and new experiences. He believed 4-H was a program where any young person could have success and be a contributor, and he believed in the importance of volunteer leadership.

Greg worked to expand the outreach of 4-H to new audiences, and he encouraged staff to be creative and inclusive with their programs. He was proud of the experiential nature of the 4-H program, and the “learn-by-doing” design of 4-H education. During Greg’s tenure as the 4-H Program Director, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents honored the 4-H Youth Development program with their Regents Teaching Excellence Award, making 4-H the first Extension program to earn that UW system award

Merry Klemme, 4-H Youth Development Educator—A one-time member of the Merry Belle’s 4-H Club, a Sheboygan County 4-H Volunteer Leader and UW-Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator is a youth advocate, mentor, and educator.

Resilience throughout her professional life and a passion for empowering others are key leadership qualities Merry demonstrates. Merry was active around the table reminding others to include youth voices in program design and implementation. Her initiatives included a “youth center without walls”, empowering youth to serve on boards and fostering additional leadership opportunities for youth. Her dedication to citizenship was demonstrated through her work securing a grant and supporting a program that connected immigrant youth with mentors.

Merry initiated multi-disciplinary programs working collaboratively with other UW-Extension program area colleagues to address their county needs. A rural Safety Day and a school age child care program are examples of these collaborations. Merry served Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Calumet Counties during her work as a 4-H Youth Development Educator.

Throughout her career, Merry led communities in developing positive youth-adult partnerships and supporting youth voices. Her influence among colleagues and volunteers keeps everyone asking, “What can we learn from youth?”

After retirement Merry returned to volunteering for 4-H, founded the Sheboygan County Silent Auction, and she currently teaches cultural art project “fun” shops every year in several different counties.

Ben Brancel, community leader, former Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture—has a deep-seated love for 4-H as he personally understands the impact of 4-H. Ben was an active Marquette County 4-H member, who served in a large variety of leadership positions and won many honors. It was because of his outstanding 4-H work that Ben was chosen to go to Washington, DC. While on that Washington trip, 17-year-old Ben met Congressman Melvin Laird. That meeting instilled in Ben a desire to enter public service. Ben credits 4-H and that meeting for placing him on a track of sustained service and civic involvement.

Ben began his public service on the local level followed by election to the Wisconsin State Assembly. In 1997 and 2011, Ben was appointed the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Among Brancel’s accomplishments over his two terms, was founding Wisconsin’s Discovery Farms and Pioneer Farm projects and leading the effort to revitalize the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory by housing it in the UW System. That led ultimately to the state-of-the-art laboratory today on the UW-Madison campus.

He assisted the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation to raise funds; tapped his connections and introduced key business people to the Foundation and encouraged their support of 4-H. Ben has co-hosted the Governor’s Blue-Ribbon Meat Products Auction with the Governor over the past two decades. Ben Brancel has been a friend and ardent supporter of the Wisconsin 4-H program throughout his career.

Dr. Ronald T. Schuler, UW Extension Specialist, Mechanical Sciences—supported and developed curriculum for the 4-H projects of Aerospace, Small Engines, Bicycle and Tractor as an Extension Specialist from 1984 to 2007. Ron was dedicated, energetic, and enthusiastic about the youth in the Mechanical Science areas.

Dr. Schuler gave leadership and organization to the state level 4-H Mechanical Science Contests from 1987-2007. He served as superintendent for the state level contests at the Wisconsin State Fair. He was lead person for a Statewide ATV Safety Program from 1994 – 1999 sponsored by a grant from National 4-H Council. He was a member of the 4-H State Mechanical Science program committee from 1984 until retirement. Dr. Schuler was a member of WAE4- HA from 1986 – 1991 and was given that association’s Meritorious Service Award in 1990.

Ron’s influence went far beyond Wisconsin as he served on the Committee for the Western Engineering Event from 1984 – 1988. Since 1989, he served on the management committee for the National 4-H Engineering, Sciences and Leadership Event until his retirement. Dr. Schuler was an author on the 4-H Small Engines Curriculum Series (Start Your Engines) in 1999 and then a major revision of the project materials in 2005. These project materials were used nationally for this 4-H Project. He also wrote and published guidelines for the Small Engines and Bicycle rodeo events. After his retirement in 2007, Ron chose to serve as the General Manager of Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Inc. Ron and his wife Barb, live in Madison where he continues his involvement in Kiwanis.

Helen Augusta Hornby, Kenosha and Vernon County 4-H Pioneer (In Memoriam)—embodied the ideals of 4-H through her life. As a young child, Helen was the first 4-H member to do seed trials for Wood County. This was the beginning of her life-long involvement in 4-H. Recognizing the value of 4-H to a community, Helen was instrumental in working with Extension staff in 1944 to form Kenosha county’s first city 4-H Club. Urban 4-H Clubs are now found throughout the 4-H Program. Beyond family participation, Helen became a 4-H leader and advocate to ensure that all children, regardless of limitations or life circumstances could learn and grow through 4-H Youth Development.

Throughout Helen’s 4-H career, she exemplified leadership in organizing activities, empowering volunteers, and sparking enthusiasm in Kenosha County, Vernon County, and beyond. She had a variety of leadership roles in 4-H focusing on the educational impact 4-H had at all levels. No matter what her role, she was concerned about providing a meaningful 4-H experience for youth.

Helen recognized the challenging job of the 4-H Agent and worked hard to support them. The 4-H Agents she worked with valued the perspective, experience, and ideas Helen shared as well as her willingness to “focus forward” as new programming initiatives were introduced. She was instrumental in getting volunteers involved to ensure a sustainable 4-H program for the future.

Her service extends well beyond 4-H in that she was also active in church, civic, county, and state volunteer activities, always trying “to make the best better.” 4-H shaped Helen’s life as she whole heartedly lived the 4-H pledge, along with her family. She worked to think clearly, be loyal, serve others, and make her world a better place.

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