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North Carolina 4-H Alumni Honored

the awardees of the 2023 4H Alumni Awardees

The 2023 North Carolina 4-H Alumni Award winners were honored on Saturday, April 29, during a ceremony at the McKimmon Center at North Carolina State University.

The achievements and service of 4-H Alumni Award recipients exemplify 4-H’s mission of “Making the Best Better,” living out the mission of 4-H and creating a legacy of excellence within the organization. They advocate, represent and support the leaders of tomorrow – shaping the lives of young people now and in the future.

Note: winners noted with an asterisk were awarded posthumously.

Lifetime Achievement

This award recognizes outstanding 4-H program staff, 4-H alumni and 4-H donors for their valuable contributions to successful program initiatives across the state. Through their efforts, these winners have improved the reach of 4-H by participating in programs, providing support, volunteering and networking on behalf of 4-H.

Sharon Runion Rowland: Sharon Runion Rowland has made significant contributions to the 4-H Youth Development program. With a deep personal sense of 4-H values and Extension’s role in her own development, Rowland has devoted her 36-year-long career to supporting and expanding the program. As a 4-H agent in Union County and later as a curriculum developer for the state 4-H staff in North Carolina, she has mentored youth who have won numerous awards and become exemplary citizens.

Rowland’s passion for Extension and her solid relationships have allowed her to succeed in both fundraising and friendraising. Through her work as a lead fundraiser for the NC 4-H Development Fund and the Cooperative Extension Foundation, she has generated several million dollars for support of 4-H and Extension facilities, annual program support, scholarship program endowments, and personnel training and support. She has also been instrumental in the creation of the North Carolina 4-H History and Learning Center at Millstone 4-H Camp, which preserves the heritage and history of America’s largest “learn by doing” youth program.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Rowland has received many awards for her dedication to the 4-H program. She has established the Steve and Sharon Runion Rowland 4-H Leadership and Citizenship Endowment, which provides funding for citizenship or leadership trips to national 4-H events. Rowland continues to support the program in her retirement by serving as a volunteer, club leader and in any other capacity she can to see the program she grew up in be successful. Rowland’s unwavering commitment to 4-H is an inspiration to all who know her, and her legacy will continue to shape the program for years to come.

Ed Emory: Ed Emory joined his local 4-H club in 1968 and later devoted his life’s work to Cooperative Extension and 4-H youth development. As a 4-H’er, Emory was recognized with various awards and honors, including being named Carteret County’s most outstanding 4-H’er for five consecutive years, receiving the “I Dare You” award, and winning the National Junior Horticultural Association’s Landscape Demonstration Award. Emory was inducted into the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club in 1974. He continued to be involved in 4-H as a volunteer leader while studying at NC State and later became a 4-H and horticultural Extension agent in Pamlico County in 1981. Emory became the 4-H agent in Duplin County in 1985.

In 1990, Emory was named county Extension director in Duplin County and led the county extension program in North Carolina’s largest agricultural county with a staff of 21 agents, program assistants and an administrative assistant. He also led the Duplin County Agribusiness Council for nearly 20 years. Emory served on the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents for five years and co-chaired the 1993 NAE4-HA national conference. Emory has held various leadership positions in 4-H and Extension organizations and received distinguished service awards from each organization. Upon his retirement in 2009, the Duplin County commissioners dedicated the auditorium of the Lois G. Britt Agricultural Center in Emory’s honor, and he was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Governor Beverly Perdue. Emory continues to be involved in various agricultural and educational organizations, including serving as the program director for the Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center at the University of Mount Olive, a member of the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund Board of Directors, a trustee at James Sprunt Community College and a member of the North Carolina Association of Community College Executive Board. 

Reba Green-Holley: Reba Green-Holley began working with Gates County Cooperative Extension in 1981 until ultimately being appointed as Gates County Extension director in 1995. Green-Holley became the first female and the first African-American to hold this position and served the county for over 33 years. During her time in leadership, she expanded the Gates County office outreach into the community and brought in additional sources of support for Extension. She helped train multiple future extension agents and shared her knowledge with other offices within the Northeast District and across the state. She led the fundraising initiative for several endowments that have and will continue to support Gates County programs in perpetuity. Green-Holley served on a number of community boards and organizational committees, including the Roanoke-Chowan Foundation, Albemarle Foundation, Community Benefits Board, First Citizens Bank Board, State ENC Board, Roanoke-Chowan Partners for Progress, Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and organized the North Carolina A&T State University Alumni Cheer Association. A native of Greensboro, Green-Holley obtained her bachelor’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University and her master’s from UNC Greensboro. She and her husband, Guy, are the proud parents of two adult sons, Armond and Tovaris. 

Maxzina Glover Clement*: Maxzina Glover Clement grew up in the Antioch 4-H Club where she participated in meetings, served as club secretary and participated in 4-H projects such as sewing, cooking, games, record keeping and song. After her time as a child, Clement saw a need to give back to the Antioch community children who needed some new direction in life, so she became a volunteer for the Antioch 4-H Club where she assisted children in their projects. Her involvement didn’t stop there. Clement was also a volunteer with the Granville County Adult Leaders Association, serving in the roles of secretary, president and advisor in support of developing programs and ideas. She recruited, trained and supported fellow volunteer leaders to help serve the needs of the 4-H’ers in Granville County. In February 2013, Clement began to serve as the secretary of the Granville County 4-H Alumni Association and served in that position until her death in September 2020. Outside of her county,  Clement served on the North Central District Adult Volunteer Leaders Association as secretary and was recognized for her outstanding performance and record keeping. Her leadership extended to the state level as she was elected as secretary of the North Carolina Adult Volunteer Leaders Association. She made history as the first volunteer from Granville County to serve in a state-level volunteer leaders position and even took her involvement to a national level where she represented Granville County in Eagle Rock, Georgia, at the Nationals Adult Leaders Association. 

Carole Moore*: Carole Moore made significant contributions to the North Carolina 4-H program as well as Cooperative Extension in her lifetime. As a North Carolina 4-H alumna, she knew the importance of 4-H and specifically was involved with the horse program. She became a 4-H leader in 1970 and was a Rockin’ Riders club leader until she passed in 2021. In addition to serving on the Cooperative Extension Advisory Council, Moore also served on the first North Carolina 4-H Horse Advisory Board. There, she chaired the first committee to introduce dressage to the North Carolina 4-H Horse Program. She motivated many others to accomplish their goals and exhibit good sportsmanship. Moore owned and operated her own business, Chestnut Hill Stables in Ruffin, since 1972. It was there that she nurtured her love of working with horses in addition to the 4-H Horse Program. Moore was a dedicated fundraiser for 4-H at many state and local events, and spent countless hours coaching numerous district, state, regional and national teams in horse bowl, hippology, judging and public speaking. Among many other accolades within 4-H, she was also inducted into the North Carolina 4-H Hall of Fame. Moore passed away on April 29, 2021, and her legacy lives on through the strong foundation she built in her 4-H Club and community. 

Sharon Ellis: Sharon Ellis is the daughter of Rudolph Carl Ellis and has been a great friend and supporter of North Carolina 4-H. Ellis was instrumental in the creation of the 4-H Museum, donating the house her father built with his 4-H project proceeds to become a place that not only preserves North Carolina 4-H items and memories but also ensures future generations of 4-H’ers can learn about the organization. In addition, Ellis funded a scholarship in her father’s honor to support a Cumberland County 4-H’er pursuing education at the university level. She continues to volunteer for the 4-H program as an integral member of the 4-H History and Learning Center Committee, helping to promote and ensure the documentation of 4-H history through “The House that Peanuts Built.”

Partners Award

This award honors individuals or organizations who have provided impactful philanthropic support to the North Carolina 4-H program.

Jordan Lumber: Jordan Lumber has been a great supporter of Millstone 4-H Camp. Over the last seven years, the company has been a key donor for the SECU 4-H Learning Center construction, as well as the annual Pickin’ in the Pines event, which provides scholarships for children to attend camp and donated materials for our recent renovation of the historic dining hall. In addition, Jordan Lumber has been a resource when needed to help find specialty suppliers and even provided trucks and drivers to move materials and provided dry storage for materials until they were needed. We are deeply appreciative of Jordan Lumber’s understanding of the importance of 4-H and the 4-H Camping Program for North Carolina youth. 

New Hanover Farm Bureau: New Hanover Farm Bureau has been a valuable partner to the New Hanover County 4-H program, providing support and funding for various initiatives. They have collaborated with 4-H to donate books, fertilized eggs and stickers for the Embryology Program, as well as provided funds for a 4-H member’s honey stick business. Additionally, New Hanover Farm Bureau has sponsored the annual 4-H Pumpkin-Palooza event for over three years. They have also sponsored the Goat Show at the Cape Fear Fair and Expo and provided funding for the 4-H Busy Bee and Pollinator Summer Fun Activities. Finally, they have collaborated with 4-H on the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher’s FrogWatch USA project, promoting and providing funding for the program. New Hanover 4-H is so thankful for the support of New Hanover Farm Bureau.

Pike Electric: Pike Electric’s commitment to supporting the 4-H Lifetime Achievement Award and Youth Voice programs has made a significant impact on the youth in North Carolina. Through their generous contributions, Pike Electric has helped provide opportunities for young people to develop their leadership skills, learn new things and “Make the Best Better” in their communities. Their support has helped empower youth to make a difference in their communities and become successful leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful for Pike Electric’s continued dedication to investing in the future of our youth and the betterment of our communities.

Camp-Younts Foundation: Camp-Younts Foundation has been a generous supporter of the 4-H Shooting Sports Program and Millstone 4-H Camp, making a significant impact on youth in North Carolina. Their support has helped provide opportunities for young people to learn and develop skills in shooting sports such as archery, rifle, shotgun and pistol. These programs not only teach important safety skills but also foster qualities such as self-confidence, responsibility and teamwork. Camp-Younts has played a vital role in ensuring that these programs are available to young people in North Carolina. We express our heartfelt thanks to Hal Atkinston and Camp-Younts for their dedication and commitment to youth development. Their contributions have made a positive difference in the lives of many young people, and we are grateful for their ongoing support.

ComputeThis: Judy and Rick Wall are the owners of ComputeThis and are great partners of North Carolina 4-H and Betsy-Jeff Penn (BJP) 4-H Educational Center. Judy and Rick are both longtime residents of Rockingham County and have supported BJP not only through philanthropic actions but also through their advocacy and commitment to the BJP Advisory Council. Their actions echo Betsy Penn’s who envisioned creating an environment focused on the health, well-being and education of the youth of North Carolina.

Duke Energy: For over 70 years, Duke Energy has been a strong supporter of the North Carolina 4-H Electric Program and 4-H Electric Congress, providing invaluable support to thousands of young people in North Carolina. The program offers opportunities for youth to learn leadership skills and gain hands-on experience in the energy industry, and Duke Energy has played a key role in facilitating this learning by providing funding, resources and volunteers. Through its steadfast support of the North Carolina 4-H Electric Program, Duke Energy has helped inspire generations of young leaders, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in both their personal and professional lives. We thank Duke Energy for its enduring dedication to the growth and development of youth in North Carolina.

Family Legacy

This award is presented to multigenerational families who have made a lasting and significant impact on the North Carolina 4-H community.

Cornelius Family: Judge Preston Cornelius grew up in Iredell County where he was a participant in the Iredell County 4-H program. As a member, he was involved in all aspects of the program but says one of the most rewarding was his participation in the livestock judging program. Brooke Cornelius Schmidt followed in her family’s footsteps as a second-generation member of the Iredell County 4-H Program. She also participated in livestock projects and served on the State 4-H Council. The Cornelius Family has continued to serve the 4-H program through Brooke’s membership of the 4-H Development Fund Board and the establishment of the Cornelius 4-H Beef Scholarship Endowment that provides a scholarship to an animal science student at NC State University. 

Sawyer Family: Four generations of Sawyer youth have participated in the 4-H program — 26 members in total, amassing 91 years of service. The family understands and believes in the life skills that the 4-H organization provides and desires that it be preserved for future generations. This conviction led them to establish the William E. Sawyer Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of the first of five Sawyers to be inducted into the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club. The Sawyer family also produced two highly successful 4-H agents turned county Extension directors. The Sawyer family blood truly runs green to “Make the Best Better.”

Harris Family: Gregory and Evangelyn Harris reside in Conway and had 13 children that were each involved in Northampton County 4-H. Evangelyn was a homeschool teacher and 4-H club co-leader for many years. By involving their children in 4-H, they saw this impactful program as an outlet for their children to share new knowledge, meet new people and be recognized for their accomplishments. The Harris children participated in various areas of 4-H, including presentations, citizenship and livestock showmanship programs, and won trips to National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference to represent North Carolina.

McLean Family: John C. McLean and Cathy H. McLean were very engaged 4-H volunteers in Henderson County. They instilled a lifelong love of 4-H in their children, Penni, Bob and Judy. Penni and Judy have commented on how 4-H and their parents’ involvement gave them valuable life skills. Judy worked as a 4-H agent and continues to support 4-H through philanthropy and volunteering, and Penni has gone on to work in energy companies and supports 4-H Electric Congress. Cathy established a scholarship in her husband’s honor to support a 4-H’er from the West district advancing their education at the university level, ensuring their commitment to 4-H and North Carolina youth continues.

Hall of Fame

This award recognizes 4-H volunteers, Extension professionals, staff, employees, donors and others who have made a significant impact on the 4-H program and/or 4-H members through the contribution of time, energy, financial resources and more at the local or state level.

Julie Landry: Julie Landry is a passionate youth and community development professional who was at the forefront of expanding the audience of Cooperative Extension in North Carolina. Landry was an Extension 4-H agent in Ashe County, North Carolina, a county with a population of approximately 22,000 people in the 1990s. The economy was (and remains) very balanced between industry, small business, tourism, arts, education, health care and agriculture. Landry was a force in planning, implementing and evaluating youth development programs led by volunteers that appealed to contemporary youth and families in a county with very few financial, cultural and recreation resources. As a youth development professional, Landy excelled in meeting the diverse needs of the citizenry within an organization that was still very oriented to traditional agricultural 4-H programs. Former State 4-H Leader Mike Davis says, “I can attest that she is the type of trailblazer who personifies a Hall of Fame career.”

Martha Jones Stovall: A lifelong 4-H advocate, Martha Stovall began her 4-H journey as a youth member, and through the years, she has served as club leader, volunteer and alumna. She strives to share 4-H with her community by sharing the many impacts the program had on her life as a business person, parent and citizen. She values the lessons learned, the friends made, and the lives influenced. Stovall values her incredible journey within 4-H and looks fondly at her time showing livestock, giving presentations, working shooting sports tournaments and mentoring youth. Attending 4-H Congress cemented her college choice, NC State University, Class of 1984.

Jane Meador Barbour: Jane Meador Barbour couldn’t wait to be in 4-H. Starting her 4-H journey in Rockingham County with homemaking projects, Barbour worked her way to an North Carolina 4-H state winning record book in food conservation and safety, a trip to National 4-H Congress and being tapped into the 4-H Honor Club. Rockingham County’s Happy Home 4-H Club was started around 1930 by Barbour’s grandparents and continues to the fourth generation today. Currently residing in Johnston County, she lives the motto of service by assisting youth with 4-H participation, volunteering at the 4-H Honor Club Reception and serving as a board member of the Johnston County 4-H Alumni Association.

Melissa Hight: Melissa Hight has been a dedicated and passionate 4-H supporter throughout her career and retirement. After Melissa’s retirement as New Hanover County Extension’s director, she replaced her Cooperative Extension director cap with a 4-H volunteer one. She is a 4-H representative to the New Hanover County Farm Bureau board to increase awareness and communication to the community of the needs of the county 4-H program for future involvement. Since 2010, Hight has supported 4-H through multiple projects, programs, events and camps. Melissa has been an instrumental asset to New Hanover County 4-H. Her leadership, commitment and out-of-the-box thinking are helping provide incredible opportunities for youth and families of New Hanover County. She is also a 4-H alumna. Hight bleeds green.

Jane Stuart*: Jane Stuart was a lifelong 4-H’er and dedicated volunteer. She worked throughout her entire career as a 4-H agent. Upon her retirement, Stuart remained active by volunteering and sponsoring a scholarship for outstanding youth from the North Central District and would coordinate the volunteerism and philanthropy of many other retired 4-H agents. In 1979, Stuart was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of 4-H agents and in 1981, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Home Economists. She supervised low-income nutrition programs, trained leaders to serve their 4-H community clubs, and organized special programs for young people to promote their growth and development into productive adult citizens in their communities. 

Jack Parker: Jack Parker received both of his degrees from NC State University and spent the majority of his career in Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a livestock agent/specialist. Parker was and continues to be committed to agriculture and youth development in North Carolina, previously serving on the 4-H Development Fund Board, as well as establishing a scholarship to support 4-H’ers who are passionate about livestock and advancing their education at the university level. In addition, Parker established an endowment to support camping initiatives in his home county of Northampton. He has remained committed to North Carolina 4-H throughout his life and has become a great advocate for 4-H in his community and statewide.

Elizabeth Meldau: Elizabeth (Betsy) Meldau’s extraordinary professional service to 4-H and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service spanned over 35 years. Her career started as a home economics 4-H agent in Durham County in 1958. Her enthusiastic leadership provided many educational opportunities for 4-H’ers. During her tenure in Durham County, numerous 4-H’ers received district, state, and national project awards, became district and state 4-H officers, and were inducted into the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club. Prior to Meldau’s employment as Durham County’s 4-H Agent, there had not been a state project winner in Durham County since 1945. Meldau was the home economics 4-H agent in Orange County from 1965-67 where her dedication continued to help many youth and adults. From 1967-75, she was a very outstanding district home economics Extension agent for the East Central and Northwest districts.

Lisa Deal: Lisa Deal has been a dedicated and committed volunteer for the Caldwell County 4-H program in North Carolina for decades. She started as a club leader for the 4-H Saddle Club in 1995 and has since been a fixture and steady volunteer presence for the 4-H program. She also worked as the 4-H program assistant for Caldwell County from 1999 to 2015. Throughout her time with the program, Deal has impacted the lives of countless 4-H’ers and their families, helping them develop leadership skills and discover their potential. Deal is described as a team player who is always willing to go the extra mile to assist 4-H’ers and staff with projects, events and programs. 

Full Circle Alumni

This award is presented to a 4-H alumnus or alumna who gives back to the 4-H program, ideally making an impact as a volunteer or Extension professional.

Adam Gardner: Wilson County 4-H alumnus Adam Gardner continually supports 4-H programs locally and statewide. He and his wife, Pamela, operate a family tobacco and sweetpotato farm in Macclesfield, North Carolina. They have three children who are active in Wilson County 4-H. Adam sits on the 4-H Advisory Committee, Wilson County Extension Advisory Committee, Wilson County Development Fund Committee and Wilson County Livestock Board. He is also active in his community and church. Gardner is an example of how 4-H creates leaders for tomorrow who give back to their community members. We appreciate all he does for 4-H.

Crystal Croyle: Crystal Croyle has been an active Rowan County 4-H Volunteer since March 2019. During this time, she has attended local 4-H training and held officer positions within the county’s volunteer leaders group, PALS. She has also attended the North Carolina 4-H Volunteer Leaders’ Association Conference and several virtual trainings at the district, state and national levels. In October 2022, Croyle attended the 4-H Volunteer Conference of Southern States in Georgia. She always brings back ideas to share with other volunteers in her county and activities to implement with 4-H’ers.

Young Alumni 

This award is presented to 4-H alumni under the age of 30 who has transitioned from a 4-H member to an outstanding volunteer or Extension professional.

Marcus Mclver: Marcus McIver grew up in West End, North Carolina, and was actively involved in Moore County 4-H. He is a 2021 graduate of Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, with a bachelor’s in business administration. As an active 4-H member, McIver participated in 4-H presentations, public speaking events and 4-H camps on the county, district and state levels. McIver credits his college and career success to the leadership skills gained by participating in 4-H programs. He stated, “The knowledge and skills that I learned in 4-H made me a better person and gave me so many skills that I know I will need throughout my life.” As a 4-H alumnus, McIver continues to advocate for North Carolina 4-H through his involvement in the North Carolina 4-H Honor Club.

Ruth Vorder-Bruegge: Ruth Vorder-Bruegge joined 4-H when she was 9 years old and has been involved ever since. As an alumna, she is the co-leader of the Chatham County Horsekateers, where she makes meetings fun and educational. She is instrumental to the club’s educational teams’ success at local, regional and national levels. She coached the winning 2021 regional/national Horse Bowl team and coached the 2022 regional/national hippology and horse judging teams. This year, she is again coaching the regional/national Horse Bowl team. Above all, Vorder-Bruegge is a leader and role model and is loved by everyone. Outside of 4-H, she studied neuroscience at Wellesley College and MIT and currently works as a lab manager and researcher.

Outstanding Alumni

This award is presented to a 4-H alumnus or alumna who has used the knowledge and skills gained through 4-H to make an impact on the greater community.

Laura Ponder: Laura Ponder’s involvement in 4-H had a significant impact on her development of exceptional citizenship skills. Through her experiences in the organization, she learned to take responsibility for the well-being of others, prioritize inclusivity and environmental conservation, and make decisions in a democratic manner. Ponder was a member of the Mountain Laurel 4-H Club, which her family members led for over three decades. As an adult, she continued to volunteer with the club and even took teens to 4-H Congress. She also led an etiquette banquet for teenagers. In addition, Ponder served as a leader for the Madison County 4-H Geotech Club, where she taught young people how to use ArcGIS software to create a map of local artists’ studios for a driving tour and designed the disc golf course at Mars Hill University. Overall, Pender’s involvement in 4-H helped shape her into an active and contributing member of her community.