Blanchards establish endowment to offer MSU scholarships to 4-H’ers

Janet Blanchard
Janet Blanchard

Janet and former Gov. James Blanchard have established a new endowment to support post-secondary scholarships for 4-H’ers attending Michigan State University (MSU). The scholarship application will be open from March 1-31, 2021.

Janet Blanchard photo
Janet Blanchard

Janet and former Gov. James Blanchard have established a new endowment to support post-secondary scholarships for 4-H’ers attending Michigan State University (MSU).

“4-H is such a great program,” Janet said. “It’s a great program for kids to learn how to work together, run a meeting, learn Robert’s Rules of Order. It teaches you skills you can use.”

The Janet A. Blanchard 4-H Leadership Scholarship Endowment will provide scholarships for Michigan 4-H’ers enrolled as full-time MSU students pursuing an undergraduate degree in any major. Recipients must have been enrolled club members of Michigan 4-H Youth Development, demonstrated leadership and been involved in extracurricular activities prior to attending MSU.

The application for the Janet A. Blanchard 4-H Leadership Scholarship will be open for the 2021-22 academic year from March 1-31, 2021. Students should apply online at Recipients will be selected during the spring semester, with awards to be effective the following fall semester. The number of awards made each year, and the amount of the awards will be based upon available expendable amounts in that year.

“We are so pleased to be able to offer more scholarships for 4-H’ers attending Michigan State University,” said Jake DeDecker, state leader for Michigan 4-H Youth Development. “We are honored to have such generous alumni of our 4-H program, like Janet, who give back to help today’s youth succeed.”

Janet attended MSU in the mid-1970s and later took evening classes, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1988 from Western Michigan University’s satellite program in Lansing, Mich. Gov. Jim Blanchard earned both a bachelor’s degree in social science in 1964 and an MBA in 1965 from MSU, as well as a juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota in 1968. They have been supporters of MSU athletics and established the Governor Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum.

“Jim and I have done a lot at MSU. I’ve said all along I’d like to do something – an endowment for 4-H,” Janet said. “An endowment goes on forever. It will go on after we’re gone. We’ll likely enhance it by giving more.

“It’s an investment in the future and an investment in students coming to MSU that may need some financial help. Anytime you can help a student, help prepare them for the future, that’s a good thing. This fund will enable future students — future leaders — with a scholarship. Every little bit helps. We have the means to contribute back and that’s what we like to do — help others.

“It’s important because I can give back. 4-H means a lot to me,” Janet said. “It was the best experience growing up.”

“It’s important because I can give back. 4-H means a lot to me. It was the best experience I had growing up.–JANET BLANCHARD, INGHAM COUNTY 4-H ALUMNA

An Ingham County 4-H alumna, Janet grew up on a farm in Williamston, Mich. She and her brother were both members of the Wheatfield 4-H Club where she recalls attending monthly 4-H meetings, learning life skills, and working throughout the year on 4-H projects. She also has fond memories attending the Ingham County Fair.

“We were both in 4-H with cattle – steers and my grand champion Angus heifer. I also did a year of sewing, flowers and so on,” Janet recalled.

Janet Blanchard as a youth with her cattle project
Janet Blanchard as a youth with her 4-H cattle project.

“The whole 4-H fair week experience was so exciting,” she continued. “It taught me responsibility, how to prepare for it, how to be organized, how to work with other people, it just goes on and on. These are skills you use for a lifetime. I can’t stress that enough. They are lifetime skills that are taught by 4-H.”

Janet still recalls the 4-H pledge which is traditionally recited before 4-H meetings:
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country and my world.

She says although the 4-H program is over a century old, the 4-H pledge is even more relevant today. “If everyone read this pledge and lived by it, we would have a better world,” she said.

“I’ve been involved with organizations bringing students in from all over the world for leadership training. I’ve continued to be involved in programs and young people,” she said. “4-H gave me a good base for doing all of this.”

Janet served as a Michigan 4-H Foundation trustee from 1989 to 1998. She co-chaired the foundation’s Campaign for 4-H from 2000 to 2007, raising $10.3 million for Michigan 4-H. During the campaign, she hosted a 4-H fundraising event at her home in Beverly Hills, Mich. She was honored as an outstanding Michigan 4-H alumna as a member of the inaugural 4-H Emerald Clover Society in 2002, and in 2008 she served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the society. In 2009, Janet was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame for her service to 4-H and community.

“The lifelong skills that I learned in 4-H were a solid base for me in my professional life when I worked in a number of positions in state government, the governor’s office, on local, state and national campaigns, in President Clinton’s White House, as Director of Protocol for the World War II Memorial Dedication and as a board member of several national organizations.”

Prior to becoming Michigan’s First Lady, Janet Blanchard spent decades in public service in Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Canada. In Michigan, she worked in various management and administrative positions for the Departments of Education, Commerce, Civil Service, Labor, Management and Budget, and the Executive Office of the Governor.

Her career highlights include serving as Michigan’s Deputy Director of the Cabinet Council on Human Investments and co-chair of the Governor’s Telecommunications Task Force. In 1993, she served as associate director of Presidential Personnel in the White House under President Clinton. She oversaw appointments to boards and commissions, making recommendations for appointments to the President.

In 2004, while her husband served as ambassador to Canada, she served on the board of the Centre for Studies of Children at Risk at McMaster University in Ontario and was active in community affairs in Ottawa. She was also directly involved in the planning and implementation of the President and Vice President’s official visits to Ottawa.

Janet served as protocol director for the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. She currently serves on the Meridian International Center Board of Trustees, and the International Student House Board of Directors, both in Washington, D.C.

4-H clover with graduation cap

Through programs that prepare students for college and an array of financial scholarships that make college more affordable, MSU Extension is helping youth to prepare and pay for college. It also provides scholarships to outstanding 4-H alumni.

4-H clover with a graduation cap on top.

With a commitment to preparing Michigan’s children and youth for the future, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension places a heavy emphasis on postsecondary education. Through programs that prepare students for college and an array of financial scholarships that make college more affordable, MSU Extension is helping youth to prepare and pay for college.

MSU Extension’s flagship program, Michigan 4-H, is the largest youth development program in the state. With opportunities to explore one’s interests and talents in almost any subject available, Michigan 4-H also helps prepare youth for higher education by helping them to develop critical life skills and try out and explore various career choices and fields. These experiences are just one of the reasons that Michigan 4-H’ers are more likely to attend college than their same-age peers, as reported in the 2020 Michigan 4-H Alumni College Access Project report. This report found that 61 percent of Michigan 4-H alums enrolled in postsecondary education in the fall after high school, compared with 55 percent of their same-age peers.

“Michigan 4-H helps youth to develop important life skills such as goal setting and planning for the future,” said Jacob DeDecker, state 4-H leader and associate director of MSU Extension’s children and youth programs. “We’re excited to see so many of our state’s 4-H youth taking the lessons learned in 4-H and applying them to postsecondary education after high school.”

The rewards of the 4-H experience are even greater for the six Michigan 4-H’ers who were chosen to receive the 2020 MSU 4-H scholarships. This award is given annually to six outstanding 4-H’ers who attend MSU and is worth $2,500 a year for four consecutive years. To be eligible for this scholarship, these members must have been involved with 4-H at some level, county, regional, state, national or international, and demonstrate outstanding achievements through 4-H, their academic classwork and their community involvement. The 2020 recipients are:

  • Adele Battel, Tuscola County.
  • Rebecca Havelka, Menominee County.
  • Allison Hawken, Tuscola County.
  • Tyler Lindquist, Osceola County.
  • Kara O’Day, Washtenaw County.
  • Caroline Taylor, Dickinson County.

In addition to making college more financially attainable for these youth, 4-H also helped them make the decision on what degrees to pursue.

“My involvement in 4-H has allowed me to discover my desire for animals,” said Caroline Taylor. “I have decided to pursue a degree in animal science and plan to eventually attend MSU veterinary school. 4-H has consistently assisted me in creating a steady foundation for my future by motivating me, supporting me and providing me with many beneficial, life-altering opportunities.”

“I currently plan to major in biology with the intent of grad school in the future,” said Allison Hawken. “I developed a love of science through many 4-H camps and conferences over the course of my childhood. MSU was my top college choice because of their value of research. Through 4-H, I learned of MSU’s countless research opportunities.”

Thanks to the generous support of Janet and former Governor James Blanchard, Michigan 4-H alumni can now take advantage of a new 4-H scholarship: the Janet A. Blanchard 4-H Leadership Scholarship. This application period for this opportunity is open from March 1-31. Learn more and apply at Additional scholarships for 4-H youth are available in the fall; visit the 4-H Scholarships and Recognition page for more information.

Boy with lamb and blue ribbon

Jamie Wilson and Abbey Miller – September 21, 2020

Michigan 4-H youth took part in the first-ever Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase, hosted by the Michigan State Fair and Michigan State University Extension.

Images of the 2020 Virtual Michigan State Fair 4-H Scholarship Recipients

Michigan 4-H youth didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic slow down their opportunity to demonstrate the skill, mastery and hard work they have put into this year’s 4-H projects. These outstanding 4-H’ers took part in the first-ever Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase, hosted by the Michigan State Fair and Michigan State University Extension. This virtual platform allowed youth ages 5-19 to exhibit their work in all project areas alongside peers from across the state.

“Michigan 4-H’ers and other youth work hard all year long on their many projects, and that didn’t stop when the pandemic hit,” said Jake DeDecker, state 4-H leader with MSU Extension. “In fact, many youth took that extra time and poured their efforts into projects and activities. By partnering with the Michigan State Fair, we were able to provide youth with a new and exciting way to showcase what they’ve worked on while receiving recognition for their accomplishments and obtaining valuable feedback for their personal development.”

In addition to the opportunity to showcase their skills and receive accolades for their hard work, participants in the statewide event also had the opportunity to apply for up to $50,000 in scholarships, generously provided by the Michigan State Fair and in partnership with the Michigan 4-H Foundation.

“A major focus within our event has always been giving back to the community and encouraging the educational and personal development of Michigan’s youth,” said Blair Bowman, Michigan State Fair manager. “We are thrilled that we are able to continue and expand upon that tradition through this new virtual platform.”

​The Michigan State Fair’s mission is to promote and celebrate the positive achievements in the areas of Michigan rural and urban agriculture, business and industry. Annually, they recognize and celebrate youth by awarding $40,000 in youth scholarships. Scholarships offered included: Animal/Livestock Scholarships (for exhibitors in the areas of beef, dairy, sheep, goat, swine, rabbits, poultry, and equine); Home Arts and Agriculture Scholarships; and the Urban Farming Youth Scholarships for youth from cities of 30,000 people or more.

New for 2020, an additional $10,000 was offered in 4-H Virtual Scholarships, funded by Blair Bowman, of the Michigan State Fair, and additional gifts to the Michigan 4-H Foundation. All youth exhibitors were able to apply for one or more scholarships, dependent on the entries they submitted in the Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase. However, any youth aged 8-19 participating in the virtual showcase was eligible to apply for one of the ten $1,000 4-H Virtual Scholarships.

Recipients of the 4-H Virtual Scholarships are:

  • Magdalene Callender, Ingham County
  • Alexis Fisher, Monroe County
  • Rebecca Havelka, Menominee County
  • Sarah Liford, Oakland County
  • Travis Liford, Oakland County
  • Allison Littlefield, St. Joseph County
  • Adrian Noecker, Antrim County
  • Kylie A. Ossege, Oakland County
  • Elizabeth Shane, Washtenaw County
  • Troy Todd, Osceola County

“I have always dreamed of competing at the Michigan State Fair, but due to distance that was not possible,” said scholarship recipient Rebecca Havelka. “The positive in this whole experience is that I had the ability to compete virtually at more shows then I could have ever imagined. Thank you so much for making this possible!”

In total, more than 400 youth from 62 Michigan counties entered more than 2,000 projects in the Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase. Evaluation began on August 24 with youth receiving an A, B or C rating, as determined by project standards.

To participate, youth entered photos and videos of their individual projects through the online FairEntry platform. There were a wide variety of participation options, including traditional classes like showmanship, breeding and market classes for livestock and companion animals, and still exhibits such as crafts, creative writing and baking. Youth were also able to enter projects that are not always showcased in a typical fair, including educational projects and demonstrations in areas such as shooting sports, urban agriculture and leadership, among others.

To view placings for the 2020 Michigan State Fair 4-H & Youth Virtual Showcase, visit

For youth interested in postsecondary education, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s flagship youth development program Michigan 4-H is helping to not only prepare youth for college success but also make it more affordable. In 2023, Michigan 4-H’ers who attended 4-H pre-college programs earned 100 percent of MSU’s Pre-College Scholarships.

“It’s really exciting to have Michigan 4-H’ers take home all 22 of the MSU Pre-College Scholarships that were awarded this year,” said Julie Chapin, state leader for Michigan 4-H and director of MSU Extension’s children and youth programs. “We typically see our 4-H’ers take home a large portion of those scholarships each year but to have them all awarded to 4-H youth is unique.”

MSU Pre-College Scholarships are a $2,000 scholarship awarded to students in their first year as a degree-seeking student at MSU. To be eligible, youth must be in eighth, nineth, tenth or eleventh grade following their MSU pre-college program involvement and be nominated to represent their program before completing an application and essay.

Pre-college programs are offered by colleges or universities and provide high school students with a hands-on opportunity to explore a major or career, interact with faculty and oftentimes try out college life for a few days.Michigan 4-H’s signature pre-college programs include 4-H Exploration Days, a three-day camp where youth have the opportunity to experience campus life at MSU; 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp, a seven-day camp where youth learn all about the Great Lakes ecosystem; 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp, a four-day camp where youth explore the fields of animal and veterinary science; and 4-H Capitol Experience, a three-day conference where youth focus on civic engagement and public policy. Through their participation in these activities, youth are encouraged to attend postsecondary education as they receive real-life college experiences and explore potential career choices.

“Our 4-H pre-college programs are a great way for youth to explore an area of interest to them and learn more about the various careers that exist in that area,” continued Chapin. “We’re grateful to have so many opportunities specifically in 4-H that make it a little easier for youth to define their future.”

For more information about the Michigan 4-H program and its precollege opportunities, visit the Michigan 4-H website.