Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 10:20 AM by Global Reach

Jerry Parsons’ leadership in 4-H Recognition and Incentives laid the foundation for recognition programs that continue to be used in 4-H programs across the nation. First hired as a Summer 4-H Youth Assistant, he learned the 4-H pledge the second day on the job on his way to a 4-H club meeting. As Parsons said, “I passed my first test.” That experience led Parsons to an Extension and 4-H career spanning four decades. Jerry Parsons

After serving in the United States Navy, in 1954 he took a position with the Cooperative Extension Service at Iowa State University as a Youth Assistant in Jones County. From 1957-1959 he had a temporary assignment on the State 4-H staff before he returned to the field to serve as a county and Area 4-H Staff Member. Parsons was then promoted to Assistant State Leader (1961-1968) for 4-H and Youth Programs. During this time, he worked with the merger of the Iowa boys and girls 4-H programs. He also provided leadership for professional youth staff training programs. In 1968, he became the Campus Coordinator for Foreign Contracts and an Instructor in the Department of Family Environment at Iowa State University.

Parsons left Iowa State University and joined the staff at North Carolina State University as Associate Professor (1970-1977) of Adult and Community College Education and State Training Leader (1970-1977) for the Agricultural Extension Service. During his time at North Carolina State University, Parsons directed a national research and development project, "Incentives in 4-H." This project developed staff and volunteer training materials related to the use of incentives in 4-H. Ten learning modules were developed and released through regional and national workshops. Parsons also served as Editor of the Journal of Extension, and for three years was Graduate Administrator for the Department of Adult and Community College Education.

Parsons joined the faculty at Kansas State University (1977-1979) where he worked with the adult and continuing education programs. He served as Director of the National Adult Education Institute and participated in numerous extension and adult education activities and associations.

In 1980 Parsons returned to Iowa State University as State Leader (1980-1988) for 4-H and Youth Programs. During these eight years the staff developed and emphasized new methods of reaching Iowa youth in addition to the traditional clubs settings. Under his leadership, he challenged state and field staff to think innovatively while enabling them to make changes in existing programs and to plan for future 4-H directions. Parsons led the efforts to move towards issues-based programming, including programs for youth at risk and environmental programs for urban youth. He assisted with realignment of the purposes and goals of the Iowa 4-H Foundation and the 4-H Camp. He also led the 4-H Youth staff through changes in staffing patterns. When Parsons retired, he left Iowa 4-H Youth staff able to meet the challenges of the future.

Parsons served on state 4-H program review committees in Wisconsin and Kansas, directed a national 4-H research and development project on incentives and recognition, chaired a national 4-H task force and two national 4-H staff development workshops, was a member of the ECOP 4-H sub-committee, presented staff training workshops in three states, and served as a trustee on the Iowa 4-H Foundation board.

After retiring in May 1988, Parsons continued to stay involved with 4-H work and served as project director for the National 4-H Recognition Model Design Team and lead author of the facilitator guide and training materials (published 1995). This team developed the 4-H recognition model still used today, and the training modules to guide implementation across the Extension system.

Since his retirement, Jerry worked for two small local businesses in Ames. He has enjoyed spending time with his three children and four grandchildren, traveling with his wife Diane, gardening, writing family stories incorporating numerous photos, and just relaxing.

Throughout his career Parsons was active in his community. His community involvement has included serving on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Arboretum, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, member of Kiwanis, and service to many youth and community organizations. He is an example of living the 4-H motto, helping youth, staff, and volunteers, “To Make the Best Better.” Parsons’ service to 4-H and Extension at the county, state and national levels, along with his commitment to community service, made him deserving for induction into the National 4-H Hall of Fame class of 2020.


Additional Information:

In 1952, Parsons received his bachelor’s in Agriculture Education from Iowa State College (ISC). Following his stint in the US Navy, Jerry joined the State Extension staff as Youth Assistant in Jones County in 1954. He joined the State 4-H staff in 1957 while pursuing a master’s degree in Rural Sociology. His Masters’ thesis, Homemakers' Participation in an Extension Program, is a study of the relationship of personal, social, and economic factors to participation of a group of homemakers in the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service. After receiving his Masters, he worked in Linn County as a 4-H Youth Assistant and then in Northwest Iowa Area. In 1961, he returned to the State 4-H Staff where he worked with the merger of the boys and girls 4-H programs.

After receiving his PhD from ISU in 1970, Jerry joined the faculty at North Carolina State University (1970-76) and Kansas State University (1977-1979) where he worked with the adult and community college education programs. While he did not have a direct appointment to the extension programs in these two states, Jerry did continue to make contributions to the programs. He served as editor of the Journal of Extension as well as serving on several national 4-H committees.

His biggest contribution to 4-H and Extension during this time period was the publication of Incentives in 4-H. This publication consisted of 11 modules for staff members to use in training 4-H volunteers.

Categories: State Recognition

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