Former Montevideo teacher inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

National 4-H Hall of Fame
Bill Svendgaard

William (Bill) Svendsgaard of St. Louis Park, Minnesota was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on October 14 for his lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H.

Honored by University of Minnesota and the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development Program, Svendsgaard was one of 16 people inducted during the ceremony held at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

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 Youth Development Professionals (NAE4-HYDP); or the Division of Youth and 4-H, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) based upon their exceptional leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.

Honorees were presented with a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque, and memory book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the Centennial Project of National Association of Extension 4-H Agents in partnership with National 4-H Council and National 4-H Headquarters at USDA.

“We are proud to recognize the 2020 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision, and leadership they have shown toward young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Committee Chair.

William Svendsgaard has spent a lifetime contributing to the success of Minnesota's 4-H Youth Development program. With his creative genius, love of people and readiness to meet new challenges, he has empowered countless individuals, boosting self-worth and pride to strengthen communities.

Bill exemplifies concern for others, using his artistic talent to benefit diverse audiences by helping to develop life skills with historically underserved populations. He created the Minnesota 4-H American Variety Theater Company in Minneapolis to bring arts to heretofore unreached inner-city youth. By encouraging inherent talent and channeling constructive expression, his initiative was one of ten artistic programs recognized nationally for the prevention of adolescent drug use. Bill taught art classes in women's and men's prisons to help individuals express themselves confidently, a much-needed skill for reintegration into mainstream society. His volunteer work led to his selection as Volunteer of the Year by the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Bill led many efforts to infuse arts into the 4-H Youth Development program during his career and in retirement. He developed a Creative Arts Master 4-H adult leader program in nine metro counties; authored the Minnesota 4-H Craft & Fine Arts Guide; directed the 4-H visual arts program at the Minnesota State Fair; and taught summer Extension arts workshops on six Indian reservations. Bill has long been a leader in his profession. As a member of NAE4-HA and a state affiliate, Bill served as special activities co-chair for the 1988 NAE4-HA Conference hosted in Minnesota. Now a member of the National 4-H History Preservation Program's leadership team, he led the creation of a first-in-the-nation 4-H history webinar, "Preserving 4-H History." His authored supporting materials that were field-tested at a 2017 NAE4-HA seminar and are now available to all states. Bill is chair of the Minnesota 4-H History Team. He has also written the history of the Hennepin County, Minnesota, 4-H program. Bill has been recognized for his leadership with the Minnesota

Extension Diversity Award, the USDA Superior Service Award for creative leadership and collaborative work with diverse audiences, and the NAE4-HA Distinguished Service Award. He has been chair of Minnesota's Vintage 4-H Retirees for six years and is vice president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE).

Bill retired in 2002 as a University of Minnesota Extension Professor Emeritus after 26 years with 4-H Youth Development. Bill was an active 4-H'er. He started his Extension career as a summer intern and taught fourth grade for six years before joining Minnesota 4-H. While his work was based in Hennepin County (Minneapolis), his positive impact was felt across Minnesota, the US, and internationally. Throughout his career, Bill has been a mentor for domestic and international youth programs, drawing on the proven methodologies of 4-H. He was an International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) Representative to Switzerland, a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil, and developed 4-H type experiential learning models for youth in the Komi Region of Russia, for which he received the Minnesota 4-H Points of Light Award. After retirement, Bill was an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow, creating youth development programs for widely varied audiences.

Bill's character is best expressed in his words: "From all my 4-H work with youth, what I remember best are their footsteps and their heartbeats. The footsteps connect them to their cultural values. The heartbeats connect them with each other, to value one another. Art is one activity that opens the door, to provide the experiences for any child who walks in a newly created self, contributing to a better creative community." Bill Svendsgaard has woven this compassion and humility through his life's work in youth development.

Bill is a former Montevideo School teacher. Of his time in Montevideo, he says "My ties and memories to Monte have remained endearing over the years.  I taught fourth grade in the Sibley Elementary School from 1962-1968.  I then was a co-director of the Individualized Prescribed Instruction (IPI) and the Primary Education Project (PEP) programs in Sibley, Ramsey, and Sanford Elementary Schools from 1969-1973.  My wife also taught music for the elementary grades.  We both have remained in close friendships with many Monte teachers and friends, including former fourth-grade students now raising their families in the Monte area.  Through Roger Larson, a former Chippewa County Agent, I organized 4-H programs in my classroom."