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Jim Kemp’s gifts give boost to 4-H Ambassadors

January 30, 2018
Jim Kemp

“Treat all people the same, no matter where they live,” says lifelong advocate for 4-H.

He may already have over 75 years of involvement in 4-H youth development, but Jim Kemp is thinking about the future. “I want to continue to expose teenagers to leadership opportunities, whether they live outside Hutchinson or in downtown Minneapolis,” says Kemp, a retiree who has spent his life in public service.

His gifts to the Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador program through University of Minnesota Extension will do just that. Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors serve as spokespeople for 4-H to educate youth and adults about the importance of youth development, leadership, citizenship, service, teamwork and other life skills.

“We want to empower young people to think about ways that they can solve the world’s problems,” says Jacquie Lonning, Extension 4-H citizenship & leadership program director. “But in order to do that they need to learn to work together, understanding diverse perspectives.”

Madison Muir is a University of Minnesota student from Hallock, Minn., who served as a 4-H State Ambassador. “It was exciting to go from developing those skills in my first year to using the skills to lead a team in my second year,” she says. “I also had a chance to meet with Jim Kemp and share my ideas with him about opportunities he could support to make the program even better.”

Interest in reaching beyond himself

Growing up on a dairy farm in Colorado, Kemp’s earliest projects included dairy, turkeys, sheep and pigs, but he also found passions for forestry, foods and health. With the guidance of a county educator, he started a dog training club for kids in a nearby suburb in order to reach out beyond the farms.

“All young people need to present themselves, speak, find information, assemble and organize,” Kemp says. After he developed leadership skills as a Colorado 4-H’er, he went to work for 4-H in Colorado, then Pennsylvania, Indiana and eventually Minnesota.

It was in Philadelphia where his interest in reaching out beyond the farms gained strength. “We would go to the row houses, where the bricks had tumbled down,” he says. “We hauled away the bricks and built gardens. We used any space we could. One was a triangle of soil between the row houses and the railroad tracks. Kids would give tours of their garden and the train would go by.”

It didn’t take long after he arrived in Minnesota before he was gathering kids from across Minneapolis and starting urban gardens in Theodore Wirth Park, helped by donations of seeds by local companies. It was just one of his many initiatives that reached young people through Extension 4-H. In 2009, after countless lives touched, Kemp was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.

Kemp’s commitment to 4-H will continue beyond his lifetime through the James C. Kemp 4-H Ambassador Endowment fund. In addition to his current gifts to his fund, he established four charitable gift annuities with the University of Minnesota Foundation, which pay him a fixed, guaranteed income for life. The remaining charitable gift annuity proceeds will benefit his endowment fund at the end of his lifetime. To discuss giving options, contact Jane Johnson.

Jim Kemp as a 4-H'er winning health award, second from upper left

Jim Kemp as a 4-H'er
Jim Kemp as a 4-H'er winning health award, second from upper left

Jim Kemp: Lifetime highlights

1941: Brought to first 4-H meeting by Cecil Staver (who later became Colorado state 4-H leader) at 8 or 9 years old. Staver became lifelong friend and mentor.

1951: “I Dare You” award, National 4-H Congress National Health Winner

1955: Traveled to Ireland and Northern Ireland with the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE)

1960-61: Received one of six National 4-H Fellowships

1960s: Started 4-H urban gardening clubs in Philadelphia

1970s: Recognized for efforts to reach young people with disabilities through 4-H summer camp

1980s Brought 4-H garden projects to Theodore Wirth Park in North Minneapolis; helped launch “Ag in the Classroom” with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture

1993: WCCO Good Neighbor Award

1990: Initiated into University of Minnesota President’s Club for gifts made to 4-H over several years

1989-94: Advisor for five years for 30 4-H State Youth Ambassadors each year, including Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, former Speaker of the House of Minnesota Representatives, and Lois Regnier Conroy, Hennepin County Judge

2009: Inducted into National 4-H Hall of Fame

2017: Continues to support Minnesota’s young people through gifts to the Minnesota 4-H State Ambassador program

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