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K-State Today

October 31, 2014

First Kansas volunteer inducted to National 4-H Hall of Fame

Submitted by Katie Allen

Marilyn Pence Galle delivers her award acceptance speech as one of 14 inductees to the 2014 National 4-H Hall of Fame. She is the first volunteer from Kansas to be awarded this honor.

A point where five trails converge at Rock Springs 4-H Center near Junction City was once an area where many young people could get lost, turned around and need direction. A Kansas couple devoted to the 4-H program decided to make a change to help these young people find their way, which led to the creation of the Galle-Pence Trail Plaza.

"It's an area in the middle of Rock Springs with directional signs for the boys, girls and others who use the facility to know which direction to go," said Marilyn Pence Galle, who with her husband, Nelson, made the trail plaza possible.

Providing direction and maps to show the way at Rock Springs isn't the only way Marilyn Pence Galle has assisted 4-H youth. She's a lifelong supporter of 4-H who has witnessed the program as a member, club and project leader, county extension council member and trustee of the Kansas 4-H Foundation. Perhaps most importantly, she's served as a volunteer in every aspect of her involvement and is Kansas' first volunteer to be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.

Galle, who currently lives in Manhattan, was one of 14 people inducted at an Oct. 10 ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees are nominated by their home states, National 4-H Council, the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents or 4-H National Headquarters based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

"The class this year only had 14 delegates, which is probably one of the smallest classes we've had," said Pam Van Horn, Kansas 4-H youth development specialist. "The National 4-H Hall of Fame started in 2002 to honor the national centennial of 4-H. Kansas has done quite well. We have a tremendous depth in our program, and we are so proud Marilyn is being honored as a volunteer this year."

Galle was a Kansas 4-H member for 11 years in the Bethel 4-H Club in Shawnee County. The club no longer exists, but it was a club that meant a lot to Galle, as her father helped start it many years before she joined.

She continued her love for 4-H in college, where she was active in Collegiate 4-H at Kansas State University. While at K-State, she met Nelson, a fellow 4-H member, at Kansas 4-H Roundup. The couple married and had three boys — Russell, Randy and Ron — who were all 11-year 4-H members also.

Galle, a 19-year 4-H community club leader and project leader, said her favorite aspect of 4-H was volunteering with her boys and others in the local club.

"One of the most fun things was way down at the local level and in my kitchen, having a boys' food class," she said. "We had sixth-grade boys come and learn mainly how to read directions and do simple cooking. They were a lot of fun and knew they had to clean up before they could go outside and play football."

The simple life skills 4-H provides to young people are invaluable, Galle said. The organization helps them become better leaders, public speakers and more organized individuals.

Galle herself was active on the poultry judging team as a 4-H member. She was on the K-State Poultry Judging Team in the 1950s and the only young lady at the time to participate in the national poultry judging contests. It made sense for her to encourage 4-H members to take advantage of the judging programs that encompass many different areas, such as dairy, horse, livestock, meat and poultry.

"Judging participation is wonderful, too," she said. "Judging helps them make decisions all through life."

In addition to volunteering as a club and project leader, Galle served 11 years on the McPherson County Extension Council with two years as chair, 11 years as a 4-H Program Committee Leader and was chair of the McPherson County 4-H Advisory Committee.

In 1984, she joined the Kansas 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees and served as chair from 2000 to 2004. She continues to provide counsel to the Rock Springs 4-H Center Advisory Committee — a role she's taken on for the past three decades.

Galle is among the top lifetime donors to the Kansas 4-H Foundation that currently has nearly $20 million in assets. She served as the special gifts co-chair to the Growing Kansas Leaders campaign that ended in 2013 with $12.8 million in funds for Kansas 4-H.

As if being involved in 4-H on the local, county and state levels weren't enough, Galle has also supported 4-H on the national and international levels. Exchange programs have benefited from the Galle family hosting 4-H visitors from various areas of the United States, Japan and Germany.

The Galles were named the Kansas 4-H Family of the Year in 1980, and in 2008, Marilyn Galle received the 4-H Distinguished Service Award. The Galles are members of the Heritage Council, which means they've publicly declared that Kansas 4-H is in their estate plans in hopes of encouraging others to do the same.

Galle said when she first got involved in 4-H, it was more of a rural organization, but she's glad to see it become an organization that includes youth from rural and urban areas. The 4-H program has gone through changes and added projects geared to help all young people become better adults.

"It's sometimes hard to make changes, but a lot have been made," Galle said. "The main thing is (4-H) has to be for the youth and give them what they need to develop."

She added that despite changes necessary to keep up with the times and get more young people involved, the core values of 4-H have remained the same. Head, hands, heart and health continue to remind members how to think, care, give and live for themselves and others.

Galle is an example of someone who has benefited personally from 4-H and knows the importance of giving back on many different levels so others can experience the same benefit. She said it's great that the National 4-H Hall of Fame recognizes volunteers, and she's proud to be among the many people with Kansas ties to earn the honor.

"I'm proud of Kansas having recognition, because we have an excellent program in the state," she said.

In addition to serving as a 4-H volunteer, Galle has been a lifelong educator who worked in the public school system 30 years. Galle is serving or has served on boards and committees for many other organizations, including Alpha Chi Omega sorority, Christian Education Committee, Moundridge Pride Program, Moundridge Tree Board, P.E.O. and trustee of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston.

At K-State, she is a member of the President's Club at the KSU Foundation and currently serves or has served on boards for the KSU Gardens and Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art.

Read more about the National 4-H Hall of Fame, Kansas 4-H and the Kansas 4-H Foundation.