'She lives the ideals of 4-H.': Sheboygan woman inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame

Samantha Hendrickson
Wisconsin State Farmer
Nancy Kissel of Sheboygan was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on Oct. 12.

The National 4-H Hall of Fame welcomed another Wisconsinite to its ranks on Oct. 12: Nancy Kissel of Sheboygan.

Based on the "exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels," Wisconsin nominated Kissel for her over 66 years of service in 4-H. Her 4-H involvement spans not just multiple programs and positions, but also generations, as her family continues her legacy in Wisconsin's 4-H community. 

“We are proud to recognize the 2021 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision, and leadership they have shown toward young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” said Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.

Kissel is credited with numerous accomplishments in the 4-H community, from small county chapters to state and national programs. Her leadership skills were first honed by her founding of a 4-H community club, serving as 4-H general leader for 35 years. 

Nancy Kissel speaks at a podium on Oct 12, after she was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.

According to a press release, Nancy credits her 1970’s part-time position as an urban expansion 4-H staff assistant, developing programs and organizing 4-H clubs for underserved urban and communities with teaching her the most about what it means to be a leader in 4-H. 

Kissel also made certain that those without traditional 4-H resources got a chance to be a part of their programs. She always dreamed of owning a horse when she was younger, and sympathized with others who, like her, wanted to learn more about the animals in 4-H but did not meet the requirement of owning a horse. 

"When repeatedly asked in 4-H promotional presentations if you needed to own a horse to be in the 4-H Horse project, Nancy astutely asked staff why the 4-H answer had to be 'yes,'" according to the press release. 

So, the Horseless Horse project was born, and the result was 76 young people from urban areas able to learn more about horses without any obstacles in their way. Over 5 years, 155 different young students benefitted from the Horseless Horse Project and participated in the program Kissel spearheaded. 

One of her original members is now an editor of Equus Magazine, said a spokesperson in the press release. 

The Horseless Horse Project caught the attention of other 4-H communities nationwide, and soon the project hit the road and became a national 4-H program. 

From that program, the leadership roles in horse projects given to Kissel are "too numerous" to count. She still volunteers with the Wisconsin Horse Expo after 52 years.

Despite all theses accomplishments, Kissel is far from retired. 

She is currently serving in the 12th year on the town Park and Forestry Commission., where she has headed projects such as a three-acre neighborhood park, and supervises public access points to Lake Michigan, cemeteries and other public areas. She also works as an office assistant in her son's landscaping business, but is still sought after for advice on anything 4-H related from people all around the country. 

"She lives the ideals of 4-H," a spokesperson for the National 4-H Hall of fame said of Kissel. "Her contributions as a volunteer are impressive in longevity, but even more so in terms of the quality and depth of her ability to create sustaining systems that support the educational mission of 4-H on all levels."

Samantha Hendrickson can be reached at 414-223-5383 or shendrickson@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @samanthajhendr.