UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
May 2, 2022 – Francis G. Ginther, professor emeritus of youth development, was honored as the 2022 Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist by the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) on April 21 in front of a crowd of nearly 200 students, faculty, staff, supporters of the college, and Ginther’s family and friends.
The occasion was the college’s 56th Annual Scholarship and Awards Program back in-person for the first time in two years. Ginther spent 30 years as a 4-H youth development agent. Twenty-eight of those years were with Pierce County, where he guided one of the largest 4-H programs in Wisconsin consisting of nearly 900 community club members and more than 200 adult volunteer leaders.
Over the course of his career, Ginther planned, coordinated, and conducted hundreds of youth experiential learning events including camps, field trips, conferences, adult and youth leadership trainings, and countless fair educational activities. Ginther was instrumental in training over 100 4-H interns in partnership with fellow extension faculty, promoting extension and agricultural education as a highly relevant and successful career path. Because of his years of experience, he became a 4-H program area liaison mentoring new educators and troubleshooting issues with experienced 4-H faculty and staff across Wisconsin. Ginther also served multiple years as the academic department chair for the UW-Extension Department of Youth Development and was chair of the Committee of Professors for the Youth Development Section of the Department of Extension Faculty.
His work with extension earned Ginther the Distinguished Service Award in 2003 and the Colleague of the Year Award in Colleague Development in 2015. In 2014, Ginther and the Pierce County 4-H staff team were recognized with the National Excellence in 4-H Club Support Award for their Multicultural Leadership Day program. Ginther was also honored with the National 4-H Meritorious Service Award in 2018.
CAFES Dean Dale Gallenberg presented Ginther with the award. He shared some comments from faculty and staff who worked with Ginther over the years on how he was so successful:
“Frank genuinely loves working with people.”
“He had a wonderful ability to assess each kid as well as each adult volunteer and match them to activities where they would be successful. His goal was to develop leadership and project management life skills so that the Pierce County 4-Hers would be successful in their future.”
“Frank is approachable and has a consistently positive attitude. He is a humble servant.”
After receiving the award, Ginther addressed the audience and described one of his favorite roles of his career.
“Introducing people around me to the outstanding difference that extension-work can make in communities is energizing and fulfilling, He said. “Many of the interns that I hired over the years actually went on to do extension or agricultural education work and I am very proud to have played a small part in helping them do so.”
Ginther revealed that humble side his colleagues mentioned, stating that he didn’t know that his work was any more distinguished than so many other hard working people in Wisconsin agriculture and natural resources, but went on to say, “I do know, however, that making a difference in communities and in the lives of people is good work, and I encourage all of you to find ways to check-up on the needs of those people and places around you. Give others a chance to learn from your effort, especially young people, so that future leaders can grow, and go on to do distinguished work of their own.”
The Wisconsin Distinguished Agriculturalist Award was established in 1970 to recognize individuals who have provided leadership, service and other contributions to the broader agricultural community. A charcoal sketch of each honoree hangs in the Agricultural Hall of Fame in the Agricultural Science building on the UW-River Falls campus. To see previous honorees, visit www.uwrf.edu/CAFES/Awards.cfm
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