Library exhibit tells the story of 4-H

For thousands of North Carolina 4-H’ers who have attended the annual State 4-H Congress at N.C. State University, 4-H and N.C. State are inextricably connected. Many of these youths find their way to N.C. State when choosing a university.

But there are also a number of N.C. State students who are not aware of the bonds between N.C. State and 4-H — and maybe only vaguely aware of what 4-H is. As North Carolina 4-H winds down its centennial celebration of 2009, an exhibit at N.C. State’s D.H. Hill Library teaches visitors about the links between N.C. State and 4-H, while showing how today’s 4-H continues the traditions of service through head, heart, hands and health.

Smart phone users visiting the exhibit can access a mobile version of the exhibit to learn more. QR codes throughout the exhibit will take mobile users to various pages of this website: Another web version of the exhibit can be found at:

Thearon McKinney and Mitzi Downing of the 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences Department worked with designers Lincoln Hancock and Tania Allen to create the exhibit that will run through July 24, the close of State 4-H Congress.  During the week of congress, 4-H’ers will have the opportunity to tour the exhibit and enjoy “Howling Cow” ice cream – maybe the 4-H Campfire Delight flavor — from the library’s creamery shop.

4-H memorabilia is currently on display in a D.H. Hill Library exhibit at N.C. State University.

McKinney tells a story that illustrates how the exhibit is making an impact on campus. When it first opened, he observed two students visiting the exhibit. The first said, “I don’t know anything about 4-H,” while the second replied, “Oh, I first came to N.C. State for 4-H Congress.” And the dialogue continued.

The exhibit focuses on the four Hs and what they mean to the 4-H organization today. The exhibit section for “head to clearer thinking” shows project books, educational curricula and more. Each section features the story of a current 4-H’er – often also an N.C. State student – who has achieved success through 4-H.

The “head” section also describes a “mobile apps” business started by Cabarrus County 4-H’er Seth Bollenbecker, a high-school student. “Sethapps” provides mobile applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. “4-H has helped me develop my business in ways that have led to successful sales,” Bollenbecker says.

The exhibit illustrates what 4-H has meant to the state and its youth.

The “heart” section of the exhibit focuses on 4-H’ers and alumni who have “pledged their heart to greater loyalty.” Among them are Gen. Hugh Shelton, a former 4-H’er from Speed, who later became chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Shelton has continued his service to N.C. State by supporting a leadership education initiative for students.

This section of the exhibit also highlights the 4-H performance tradition that has produced artists like songwriter Kyler England, a former N.C. State Caldwell Fellow, whose music has been featured on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill.

As 4-H’ers have pledged their “hands to larger service,” they have served many needs. This section of the exhibit includes information on N.C. 4-H’s historic collection of personal items for states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. North Carolina sent three tractor-trailers with collected donations in 2005. 

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Johnny Wynne hears from 4-H's Mitzi Downing about the historic items on display.

The exhibit focuses on other heart-felt initiatives of 4-H’ers, like Forsyth County’s Trailblazer Teens, who raised more than $6,000 to help Samaritan’s Purse renovate and expand a school in Aru, Congo, or 4-H’er Savannah McGunigal of Davie County, who coaches a Special Olympics cheerleading team in her community.

The tradition of 4-H’ers pledging “health to better living” goes back to N.C. 4-H founder, L.R. Harrill, who believed in the power of organized recreation to improve the lives of young people.  The tradition continues today through 4-H camps and educational centers around the state, where young people enjoy recreation-filled weeks of summer camp.

Because North Carolina youth are ranked high nationally in obesity, 4-H has become more focused in recent years on helping young people achieve better nutrition and higher levels of physical activity. The lessons of a 4-H hen project really hit home for 4-H’er Allen Monk, who weighed 300 pounds at age 8. Monk was motivated to lose 100 pounds and regain control of his life.

Beyond human health, 4-H’er Sarah Osborne used her own money to purchase and rescue an emaciated horse in her community, with the help of her local Cooperative Extension livestock agent.

In addition, the exhibit holds lots of 4-H memorabilia. In designing the exhibit, the group discovered that while NCSU Libraries was flush with 4-H photos, there was little archived in the way of memorabilia. The call went out across the state for 4-H memorabilia, and 4-H responded.

The exhibit includes project books, pins, even uniforms worn by 4-H’ers of bygone days and a green pin-striped dress and women’s suit. Each piece — such as the signature hat worn by L.R. Harrill or the green jacket worn by a man from Caldwell County — came with a story.

4-H historian Dr. Jim Clark (left) and Dr. Joe Zublena, Cooperative Extension director, visit the exhibit.

Among exhibit contributors were Dr. Jim Clark, author of Clover All Over: North Carolina’s First 4-H Century; Lisa Carter, head of D.H. Hill Library Special Collections; Mark Dearmon, head of University Communication Services; and Brad Dixon, assistant director of development, N.C. 4-H Development Fund.

For a look at 4-H and N.C. State through the years, visit the exhibit at D.H. Hill Library between now and July 24 during regular operating hours.

— Natalie  Hampton

What do you know about 4-H in North Carolina?

1. What future N.C. governor served as a state officer in 4-H, FFA, as well as N.C. State University’s student body president?

2. Two N.C. State University buildings bear the names of founding leaders of 4-H in North Carolina. Who were the leaders and their respective buildings?

3. 4-H’ers in North Carolina can participate in which of these learning programs:

a. Robotics

b. Embryology

c. Interior design (Eco-Works Challenge)

d. All of the above

4. This 4-H and N.C. State alumnus from Speed, N.C., went on to become head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

5. What do the four Hs stand for?

6. What 4-H alumnus from Avery County was the star center of the N.C. State basketball team that won the 1974 NCAA men’s championship?


Gen. Hugh Shelton, former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff -- and a 4-H and N.C. State alumnus -- is featured at the exhibit.

1. Gov. Jim Hunt

2. I.O. Schaub began the Boys’ Corn Clubs, a precursor to 4-H, and later went on to become dean of the College of Agriculture at N.C. State. Schaub Hall houses the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences.  Jane S. McKimmon founded the Girls’ Tomato Clubs, and later served as the first leader of North Carolina’s home demonstration programs. McKimmon Center for Continuing Education is named for her.

3. d. North Carolina 4-H’ers can participate in learning programs in robotics, embryology and interior design, just to name a few.

4. Gen. Hugh Shelton

5. Head, Heart, Hands and Health

6. Tommy Burleson

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.