York County commissioner creates 4-H leadership award during Penn State campaign

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Doug Hoke did not grow up on a farm. He did not participate in the 4-H program. He did not attend Penn State.

Still, the lifelong York County resident and vice president of the York County Board of Commissioners made a $125,000 outright gift to Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences to establish the Hoke 4-H Leadership Award Fund in York County. The endowment will provide educational awards to recognize the achievements of York County 4-H members, with a preference for high school seniors who plan to attend college or technical school.

“I grew up in suburbia, with no exposure at all to the rural or farming community,” said Hoke, a graduate of West York Area High School. “That all changed when I went away to college.”

Believing it was a good idea to expand his horizons, Hoke decided to leave Pennsylvania to attend Culver-Stockton College, a small, private college in rural Missouri, where he was inadvertently introduced to the agricultural community.

“I got to be good friends with a family that had a 400- to 500-acre farm near the college,” Hoke recalled. “They raised horses, cows and chickens and grew corn and other crops. I would go there on weekends and work around the farm, and I would attend Saddle Club dances on Saturday nights. It was a great experience.”

Hoke returned from college with a degree in history and political science — and a newfound appreciation for rural life and the value of agriculture. For the next 34 years, he worked as a project administrator for the Pennsylvania State Public School Building Authority, a nonprofit organization that helps school districts and community colleges finance infrastructure. He also worked for the Pennsylvania State Lottery and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

He drew on his Missouri farm experience and his work with schools when he considered running for York County commissioner in 2007. “I realized how important agriculture is to a community, and York County is no exception. Approximately 62 percent of our county is farm and woodlands,” he said.

“When I was elected, I started going to a lot of 4-H-related functions and thought it was a great program,” Hoke said. “I served as judge for contests and attended a lot of fairs, exhibits and shows. Through these, I came to realize that 4-H members and their families are a vibrant, good group of community people. The students were always energized about what they learned through 4-H.”

Eventually, Hoke said he began receiving invitations to 4-H club animal sales at the York County 4-H Center and the York County Fair during the year. Instead of purchasing animals, Hoke would make a contribution to the 4-H member. Apparently, his reputation spread, and he began receiving 20-30 invitations each year, the majority of which resulted in his making a gift. In January 2018, Hoke was recognized at the annual 4-H Beef Buyers Sale for his commitment to the organization.

The idea of doing more for 4-H began percolating a couple of years ago, Hoke said. “I thought I’d like to set something up for 4-H members planning to further their education, either in college or technical school. I wanted to do something meaningful,” he said.

Hoke had conversations with staff members of Penn State Extension about the 4-H program. Those conversations, coupled with the fact that he was a fan of the University, led him to reach out to the College of Agricultural Sciences to set up his 4-H leadership award endowment, which comes during Penn State’s ambitious fundraising effort, "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence." The five-year, $1.6 billion campaign seeks resources to make a Penn State education more accessible; to create transformative experiences through the arts, international experiences and other opportunities; and to help researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems — food, water and energy security; human health and well-being; and economic development.

“4-H is one of the most successful youth leadership programs in the United States and world,” said Dennis Calvin, director of Penn State Extension. “Many current and past leaders, along with prominent personalities around the country, credit their success to being a 4-H member. Commissioner Hoke’s gift is greatly appreciated and will help current and future 4-H members become the next generation of leaders.”

“My point of view is that when I work in a community I’ve lived in all my life — and I obviously love this community — it’s important to do things like this when you have the opportunity and the resources,” Hoke explained. “I thought the 4-H program was a great place to make an investment. Students in 4-H are hardworking people with a great work ethic. It just made sense to me to go to Penn State and make a contribution.

“I’m looking forward to providing students in 4-H with the possibility of furthering their future and becoming good citizens as well as tomorrow’s leaders of our community.”

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences represents the foundation of Penn State University and its land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives: Open Doors, Create Transformative Experiences, and Impact the World. Through teaching, research and Extension, and because of generous alumni and friends, the College of Agricultural Sciences is able to offer scholarships to one in four students, create life-shaping opportunities, and make a difference in the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit http://agsci.psu.edu/giving.

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Last Updated March 05, 2018