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4-H Youth Development


The Oklahoma 4-H Foundation was incorporated on January 25, 1962, in order to receive a generous estate gift from the late R. D. Farmer. ...




The Oklahoma 4-H Foundation was incorporated on January 25, 1962, in order to receive a generous estate gift from the late R. D. Farmer. This Oklahoma City businessman met Ira Hollar and a group of outstanding 4-H, members on their way home from the National 4-H Congress by train. It was then that R.D. Farmer decided to make 4-H the final beneficiary of his estate. Now that all of his heirs have died, the 4-H Foundation is the sole beneficiary of his trust. This estate gift was finally realized in the summer of 2007, but in the meantime his actions caused the creation of the 4-H Foundation, which has benefited thousands of 4-H members. The initial trustees of the Foundation were Oklahoma A&M president Oliver Willham, State 4-H Leader Ira Hollar and J. L. Sanderson. For more than 10 years the Foundation had no other directors or paid staff.


In 1974, State 4-H Program Leader Pete Williams and 4-H Specialist Ray Parker completed a process to appoint the first board of directors. An initial meeting of the new board was held on May 22, 1975, at which time new by-laws were approved and the following officers were elected: Ed Synar, president; Pete Williams, vice president; Ray Parker, secretary; and James Denneny, treasurer.


Mr. Parker served as secretary for many years, but most of the work was managing the money that came in from a handful of farm organizations and companies to support various statewide 4-H competitions. Mr. Parker says Shawnee Milling is probably the longest continuous donor to the 4-H Foundation since their gifts were already coming in when he took over as secretary.


In 1979, Pete Williams gained support from the Foundation Board and Extension Director J. C. Evans to create the first paid position for an executive director for the 4-H Foundation. Retta Miller was the first paid director, who worked from December 1979 until the fall of 1982. Over the years a number of people have actually held the title of executive director for the 4-H Foundation, including Miller, Leon Moon, 1982 to 1987; Ray Sharp, 1987 to 1989; Roger Moore, 1989 to 1996; David Sorrell, 1998 to 2004; Jim Rutledge, 2005 to 2007; Cathy Shuffield, 2008 to 2010; and Jim Rutledge again from Dec. 2010 to the present. From 1996 to 1998, board members Glenna Ott and Mary Sue Sanders helped keep the Foundation alive with regular trips to campus. From the beginning to now, the 4-H Foundation executive director position has been jointly funded by the Extension Service and the 4-H Foundation, with the Foundation maintaining its office in the state 4-H headquarters at the Oklahoma State University campus.



From the beginning the focus of the Foundation was on promoting excellence among 4-H members. The earliest programs included incentives and awards as well as scholarships for members who excelled at record books or statewide contests. Over the years, support for college scholarships has grown significantly as have special scholarship and program endowments. During the late 1970s and 1980s the Foundation increased the number of trustees, and with the help of the expanded board and early directors, they increased the number and size of gifts through programs like the “Order of the Clover” and the “Alliance for 4-H” which was a partnership with the National 4-H Council. In the 1990s much of the focus was on helping to promote awareness of the 4-H Foundation through promotional events and the “4-H Store” that was set up at all major 4-H statewide events. At the turn of the century, the focus was on finding alumni and asking for their support, which led to increased numbers of endowments and larger annual contributions to support 4-H. Several new donors helped fund 4-H Enhancement Grants that now provide support for up to 50 club or county groups annually. With the help of board member Larry Derryberry, the “Circle of Champions” became an important source of unrestricted support. The annual Clover Classic Golf Tournament was also instituted with strong support from the board, including Jerry Kiefer, Gwen Shaw and Roy Lee Lindsey Jr. The past few years have also included a focus on the organization and management of the Foundation, which was recognized by the IRS as an independent 501 (c) (3) in 2008.


Over the years the Foundation has grown in size and importance to the Oklahoma 4-H program. Records show that in 1976 the Foundation had assets of $13,944. In 2012 those assets reached an all time high of $6.3 million dollars. In 2007 and 2008 annual revenue approached one million dollars, and in 2011 the Foundation received the largest donation in its history, a $1 million gift that will fund the Rule of Law 4-H Scholarship Program and will nearly double the number of scholarships given to 4-H’ers annually.

The Foundation that was created to allow a businessman to leave a legacy has itself grown into a 4-H legacy. Thousands of 4-H members have participated in events and hundreds have attended college with Foundation support. Past and present donors are commended for their foresight in providing support through the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation.