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Payne/National 4-H Fellowship Program

For nearly 40 years - from 1931-1969 - the 4-H fellowship program provided opportunities for dozens of young women and young men to expand their education and career opportunities... many of them continuing life-long careers in the Cooperative Extension Service.

Initially funded by The Payne Fund of New York City, the program was later funded by the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, Massey-Harris Company and the E. T. Meredith Foundation.

1954-1955 National 4-H Fellows with Secretary of Agriculture Ezra T. Benson. Standing, left to right - Donna Kragh, Ella Fazzalari, Marvin Boss, Wayne Bath (IFYE Fellow), Bronna Mae Elkins, Margaret Ann Dial (IFYE Fellow), V. Joseph McAuliffe and Don Wiles.

Franklin Reck, in his history book, "The 4-H Story," reports: "A notable event at the 1931 National Camp was an announcement by S. Howard Evans, representing the Payne Fund, that beginning in 1931 fellowships would be provided for one 4-H young woman and one 4-H young man, selected from the country at large on the basis of activity, ability, personality and leadership qualities. The pair were to be college graduates and their program of study designed to lead to a Master's degree. Under the fellowship, the two designated 4-H members would spend about ten months in Washington, making a study of governmental activities, taking academic courses in the U.S.D.A. Graduate School and other universities, and pursuing a research problem of their choosing.

"From 1931 to 1939, the Payne Fund Fellowships, awarded each year, provided the Extension Service with many trained and skilled leaders. In 1939 the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work agreed to continue the two grants as the National 4-H Fellowships. In 1953 four more grants were made available by an interested donor, making a total of six." (The interested donor was Massey-Harris Company... later known as Massey-Ferguson.)

1956-1957 National 4-H Fellows with Guy L. Noble, seated, and Kenneth Anderson, standing right, National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. Also seated, Ann Thompson. Standing, left to right, Duane Lau, Virginia White, Harlan Copeland, Joan Engle and Harry Vieth, Jr.

A significant history of the Payne/National 4-H Fellowship Program was authored by Harlan G. Copeland and V. Joseph McAuliffe, two participants in the program, in 2008. The 222-page book - "Windows to a Wider World - The Payne/National 4-H Fellowships 1931-1969" - has been digitized and is on the National 4-H History Preservation website.


Copeland, Harland G. and V. Joseph McAuliffe, Windows to a Wider World - The Payne/National 4-H Fellowships 1931-1969. Arden Hills, MN: Allegra Print & Imaging, 2008, 222 p.

Windows to a Wider World presents the story of a national fellowship program for professional 4-H personnel in the Cooperative Extension Service. Originally conceived as a national honor for outstanding achievement in 4-H Club Work, the mission evolved as a continuing professional development program for newly-employed personnel working with the 4-H program at county and state levels. The program was a cooperative effort involving foundations, corporations, land-grant universities, and the federal government.

Beginning in 1931 and continuing through 1969, the Payne Fund of New York City provided 16 fellowships ($16,000), the Massey-Harris Company (later known as Massey-Ferguson) contributed 64 fellowships ($159,200), the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work in Chicago added 50 fellowships ($100,600) and Successful Farming magazine and the E. T. Meredith Foundation provided one fellowship ($3,000) to 66 young men and 65 young women from 39 States.

The program provided for the Fellows to spend approximately a year in Washington, D.C. for an informal study of government and national organizations arranged by the Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Initially, Fellows would select an area of interest (e.g. home economics, dairy science, 4-H programs) to become familiar with the work and research of that unit of USDA. The program was eventually broadened to include academic courses in the USDA Graduate School and interviews with government leaders, Congressmen and women, and leaders of national organizations. Still later, pursuing graduate education became an option and most Fellows obtained a master's degree at one of the area universities while continuing their informal study of government.

The program was the idea of S. Howard Evans of the Payne Fund (established by Congresswoman Frances Payne Bolton of Ohio) after meeting delegates attending the National 4-H Camp in Washington in 1930. Evans indicated the interest of the Payne Fund in helping young people learn how their community life linked with that of the nation and the relationship of their county governments to that of the state and national.

Subsequently, a fellowship for one 4-H boy and one 4-H girl was planned for the next year. Congresswoman Bolton and the Board of the Payne Fund were so pleased with the experiment that the Fund continued its support of the program for nine additional years.

In 1940, the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work began to provide fellowships as well as seek support from corporate donors. The number of fellowships grew from two to six per year and, in 1961-1962, there were seven Fellows.

Brief biographies document the service and contributions of the 131 recipients which include leaders of the county, state and national Cooperative Extension Service, international development, higher education, and community and public service.

The Payne/National 4-H Fellowship Collection

Documentation on the National 4-H Fellowship Program is housed in the Special Collections area of the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland.

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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