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West Virginia trailblazer marks another milestone with celebration of 100th birthday

Photo of Mildred Fizer, the nation's first female state 4-H program leader
Mildred Fizer often says that someone has to go first. So, she did.

As the nation’s first female state 4-H leader, a position she held at WVU Extension Service until her retirement in 1978, it was Fizer who broke glass ceilings and paved the way for future generations of women to take on leadership roles around the country.

On Saturday (March 6), the Morgantown resident and native of Culloden, West Virginia, will mark yet another milestone by celebrating her 100th birthday. In honor of this special occasion and to recognize her outstanding contributions to West Virginia, she has been named a Distinguished Mountaineer by Governor Jim Justice. 

“We want to wish Mildred a happy birthday and honor her for the incredible legacy she created for 4-H youth programming around the state,” Jorge H. Atiles, dean of Extension and Engagement, WVU Extension Service, said. “She is a true inspiration for all of us.”

After working as a teacher, Fizer, became a Cabell County 4-H agent in 1946 where she enjoyed working with youths in the program. Twenty years later, she would break through the glass ceiling as program director of West Virginia’s state 4-H program – the first woman in the nation to lead a state 4-H program. She also was the first female to be named to the National 4-H Foundation Board of Directors. 

Under her leadership, the West Virginia 4-H program grew from 35,000 to 55,000. Fizer would often visit county camps around the state, something she enjoyed doing. She also was an advocate for higher education, and she established the Mildred Fizer 4-H Scholarship, which is presented to a West Virginia 4-H’er during their freshman year at WVU.

WVU Extension Service 4-H Agent Megan Midcap was one of those scholarship recipients. “I can’t thank Mildred enough for shattering the glass ceiling and paving the way for so many of us. Thanks for living the 4-H motto of making the best better,” she said.

Fizer, who retired from WVU in 1978, has received numerous awards and accolades throughout her lifetime, including the National 4-H Hall of Fame, Distinguished Service Citation from the National Association of Extension Agents, WVU Order of Vandalia, 2020 West Virginia Living Wonder Woman, West Virginia Agriculture & Forestry Hall of Fame and Citation of Commendation from the USDA, among others.

Friends, colleagues and others who were inspired by Fizer shared special messages in honor of her 100th birthday via a special video message.



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Tara Curtis

Director of Communications & Marketing

WVU Extension Service