William (Bill) Svendsgaard of St. Louis Park, Minnesota was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on October 14 for lifetime achievement and contribution to 4-H.
Honored by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development Program, Svendsgaard was one of 16 inductees at the ceremony held at the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.
National 4-H Hall of Fame winners are nominated by their home state, the National 4-H Council; National Association of Youth Development Professionals 4-H Extension (NAE4-HYDP); or the Division of Youth and 4-H, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) / National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) due to their exceptional leadership at the local, state level , national and international.
The recipients received a 4-H National Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and souvenir book during the ceremony. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the National Association of 4-H Extension Workers Centennial Project in partnership with the National 4-H Council and National 4-H Headquarters. -H at the USDA.
“We are proud to recognize the recipients of the 2020 National 4-H Hall of Fame for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they have shown to youth during their many years of service to 4-Hs. H, ”said Jeannette Rea Keywood, Chairman of the 4-H Hall of Fame Committee.
William Svendsgaard has spent his life contributing to the success of Minnesota’s 4-H Youth Development Program. With his creative genius, his love of people and his willingness to take on new challenges, he has empowered countless people, building self-esteem and pride to strengthen communities.
Bill exemplifies caring 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 the arts to inner city youth so far. By nurturing inherent talent and channeling constructive expression, his initiative has been one of ten nationally recognized arts programs for the prevention of adolescent drug use. Bill has taught art classes in both women’s and men’s prisons to help people express themselves with confidence, a skill essential for reintegrating into mainstream society. Her volunteer work led to her being selected as Volunteer of the Year by the Minnesota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Organization.
Bill led many efforts to infuse the arts into the 4-H youth development program during his career and in retirement. It has developed a master’s program in Creative Arts for Adults 4-H in nine metropolitan counties; author of the Minnesota 4-H Craft & Fine Arts Guide; ran the 4-H visual arts program at the Minnesota State Fair; and delivered summer workshops on the popular arts on six Indian reserves. Bill has long been a leader in his profession. As a member of NAE4-HA and a state affiliate, Bill was co-chair of special events for the 1988 NAE4-HA conference in Minnesota. Now a member of the leadership team of the National 4-H History Preservation Program, he led the creation of a first webinar on the history of 4-H in the country, “Preserving the History of 4-Hs. -H ”. He wrote supporting documents that were field tested at a 2017 NAE4-HA seminar and are now available in all states. Bill is president of the Minnesota 4-H history team. He also wrote the history of the 4-H program in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Bill was recognized for his leadership with Minnesota
Extension Diversity Award, USDA Superior Service Award for creative leadership and collaborative work with diverse audiences, and the NAE4-HA Distinguished Service Award. He was president of Vintage 4-H Retirees of Minnesota for six years and vice president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE).
Bill retired in 2002 as Professor Emeritus of Extension at the University of Minnesota after 26 years with 4-H Youth Development. Bill was an active 4-H’er. He began his career in the extension industry 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 United States and internationally. Throughout his career, Bill has been a mentor for national and international youth programs, drawing on proven 4-H methodologies. He has been a representative of the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) in Switzerland, a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil and has developed 4-H type experiential learning models for young people in the Komi region of Russia, for which he received the Minnesota 4-H Light Award points. After his retirement, Bill was an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow, creating youth development programs for a wide variety of audiences.
Bill’s character is best expressed in his words: “Of all my 4-H work with young people, what I remember best are their footsteps and their heartbeats. The steps link them to their cultural values. Heartbeats connect them to each other, to be valued Art is an activity that opens the door, to provide experiences for any child who walks in a newly created self, contributing to a better creative community. Bill Svendsgaard weaved this compassion and humility through his life’s work in youth development.
Bill is a former teacher at the Montevideo school. Of his time in Montevideo, he says “My ties and memories with Monte have remained endearing over the years. I taught fourth grade at Sibley Primary School from 1962 to 1968. I was then co-principal of Prescribed Personalized Instruction (IPI) and Primary Education Project (PEP) programs at Sibley, Ramsey and Sanford elementary schools from 1969 to 1973. My wife also taught music for elementary classes. the two have remained in close friendship with many of Monte’s teachers and friends, including former fourth graders now raising their families in the Monte area. Thanks to Roger Larson, a former Chippewa County agent, I ran 4-H programs in my classroom.