Posted on April 19, 2012 at 4:19 PM by Global Reach
C. J. Gauger’s Place In 4-H’s Past
C.J. Gauger was Iowa State 4-H leader from 1959-1979. In Iowa, he brought the boy’s and girl’s 4-H programs together. Gauger also had a national impact as chair of a national committee that took 4-H in a life skills direction. Whether at the county, state, or national level, he believed in listening to youth and involving them in shaping their 4-H program. He said the theme of his work, and the genius of 4-H, was that 4-H is a way for people to grow and develop. Gauger invested his time in developing youth and adults.
As a byproduct of combining the boys’ and girls’ programs, Gauger saw a higher level of senior 4-H member participation in Iowa than in any other state in the north central region. Older youth stayed involved in 4-H because activities were designed for them, such as state council. Gauger described his vision for state council as a “two-way flow.” The youth should not only carry ideas from the state office out into the counties but also bring ideas from the county to the state. For example, youth leaders in the Ottumwa area dreamed up and coordinated a one-day district conference. Their efforts inspired others to hold district conferences throughout the whole state. The youth shaped the program.
Gauger began serving on the 4-H subcommittee of the national Extension Committee on Policy in 1963, chairing the subcommittee from 1964-1967. He was also a member of a small, informal group of state 4-H leaders (the “4-S Club”). “We said, ‘4-H can be more than what we’re getting out of it. We think it can be more,’” he said of the small group, whose second meeting was at the Iowa 4-H Camp. Being a part of that was rewarding. Gauger saw a broadening of the 4-H program. Youth began doing 4-H project work in new areas—for instance, alongside traditional projects like swine and dairy, youth could now train their puppy in the dog project. He believed adding projects was not the only kind of broadening 4-H needed; the emphasis should go beyond the project. “4-H in a sense is a combination of the project skills and the life skills…it’s not one or the other,” Gauger said. “Leadership, citizenship, [and] communication are life skills too.” Once project-oriented, 4-H became more individual-growth-oriented. Through 4-H projects, youth grow and develop.
Through 4-H clubs, too, youth grow and develop. Gauger started a 4-H Builder’s Club in Story County after hearing about a similar one in Colorado. “I thought to myself, ‘we can use that,’” he said. He gave youth a chance to start programs on their own, like a county 4-H chorus and a recognition program for donors. Gauger said the club thrived under the continuity of Jim Christie’s leadership. There were even marriages among club members, including Gloria Swanson and Allan Anderson. The important thing about the Builder’s Club and every 4-H Club was that the club was a “vehicle for individual growth,” Gauger said. Leaders should be more concerned about the individuals in the club than the club itself, he said.
Gauger also saw adult leaders grow and develop through 4-H. In another county, he helped a group of youth form a club. “I excused the adults, as I usually did, and I said, ‘Who would you like to have as your leader?’” The youth picked Ray Mitchell, a farmer who “didn’t want to be a leader,” C.J. said. Mitchell agreed reluctantly and was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame in 2006. “It’s really not the kids alone,” Gauger reiterated. For both adults and youth, “4-H is a way to grow.”
In 2002, Gauger was also inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame, as well as the National 4-H Hall of Fame in 2003. The flagpole area at the Extension 4-H Youth Building at Iowa State University was dedicated in his honor in 2005. Looking back, he says “4-H’ers are our best project,” emphasizing again that people grow and develop in 4-H. “Helping young people grow into their full potential—that’s what I enjoy,” he said. In many years of service, he had a vision for the true “genius of 4-H,” interrelating the project skills and the life skills. He invested his time in developing youth and adults, and has a place in 4-H’s past.