West Virginia University Extension 4-H’ers across the state will soon get more opportunities to attend 4-H events at WVU Jackson’s Mill through a new scholarship fund honoring a long-time 4-H’er and All Star.
Donna Gail Michel was a lifelong 4-H’er and a 4-H All Star for more than 60 years. She was even the chief of the West Virginia 4-H All Stars in 1981. To say she loved 4-H is an understatement.
Retired Reverend Louis Craig Michel, Donna Gail’s husband, wanted to honor his late wife by creating an endowment for 4-H state camps.
Although Reverend Michel was never involved in 4-H until he met his wife, he soon learned to love 4-H as she did. From Providence, Rhode Island, to Oxford, Mississippi, they went all over the U.S. attending All-Star conferences together.
The Michels were committed supporters of 4-H over the years, even deciding together that they wanted to write it into their estate to give to the program.
However, Donna Gail passed before those plans came to fruition. Now, Reverend Michel is carrying out their plan on his own, creating the 4-H State Camp Scholarship Endowment. This scholarship was announced at a celebration of life held for his late wife at WVU Jackson’s Mill on October 1.
This endowment, worth $300,000, will support youth attending 4-H camps or programs at WVU Jackson’s Mill. This includes traditional summer camps, pod camps, weekend camps, seminars and competitions.
A percentage of scholarships awarded will be named Plymale Promises in memory of Donna, whose maiden name was Plymale.
Donna Gail, a 4-H’er for 75 years, taught at Buckhannon-Upshur High School for 20 years. In. In that time, she made sure to always live life to the fullest. She made an appearance in “We Are Marshall,” went on a cruise in Antarctica for her retirement trip and visited all 50 states and seven continents. Throughout all her adventures, she always maintained her love and connection to 4-H.
“There was no place more special for her than Jackson’s Mill, and no people more special than the 4-H All Stars,” said Reverend Michel.
The couple attended the West Virginia 4-H All Star conference every year until they moved to Arizona, but they did make it back home for her last conference at Jackson’s Mill in 2019. Although they attended 4-H All Star conferences across the U.S., nothing was quite like West Virginia.
“They were all 4-H’ers, so they spoke a common language and had common values, and it was interesting to hear them relate the experiences that 4-H has in their states,” said Reverend Michel. “But West Virginia is a pioneer 4-H state – it’s one of the oldest and leading 4-H programs, so people get advice from West Virginians because they’ve been at it a long time and have done an excellent job.”
Donna’s ties to 4-H predate even her own life. Her father was an agriculture teacher and agronomist, and he is in the Agriculture and Forestry Hall of Fame at Jackson’s Mill. Her aunt attended summer camp at Jackson’s Mill the very first year it was open in 1920.
“As deep as her roots were in 4-H and in agriculture, it’s almost natural that she had this love and respect for Jackson’s Mill,” Reverend Michel said. “She wanted to make it available so that any 4-H’er could have the opportunity to come here.”
“This scholarship will ensure that future generations of youth throughout West Virginia are able to experience 4-H and Jackson’s Mill just like Donna Gail,” Brent Clark, director of WVU Extension 4-H and Youth Development, said. “Camps and events at Jackson’s Mill expose youth to new individuals, skills and talents that will help them grow and develop throughout their life.”
The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.
If you would like to invest in the future of youth agriculture, 4-H’ers or other important WVU Extension programs, contact Lauren Seiler, director for development, WVU Extension at 304-293-5692 or email Lauren.Seiler@mail.wvu.edu.
To learn more about 4-H activities in your community and keep up with the latest in West Virginia 4-H news, follow @WestVirginia4H on Facebook and @wv_4h on Instagram.
If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit extension.wvu.edu or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
CONTACT: Sydney Keener