Honoring her mother’s 4-H legacy, Karen Keller’s continuous generosity to the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation will provide new opportunities for 4-H members in the fabrics and fashions project area.
“4-H was a big part of our lives,” Keller said, recalling her childhood in rural Kingfisher County.
Although Keller’s time as a 4-H member was brief, her mother, the late Wilma Wendt Pattillo, served the 4-H program for many years, beginning with her role as a home demonstration agent in Major County in 1960.
“I remember how much she loved working with kids,” Keller said. “I especially remember how much she enjoyed the summer 4-H camps.”
Keller left home to attend Oklahoma State University in 1963, allowing her mother to devote more time to her 4-H’ers.
As a home demonstration agent, Pattillo was instrumental in creating a strong 4-H presence in Major County. She presented home economics lessons to 4-H’ers, organized 4-H dress revues and demonstration contests and planned her county’s annual 4-H achievement program.
After 10 years in Major County, Pattillo accepted a position on the state 4-H staff at OSU.
As a state specialist, Pattillo led youth on numerous national trips, organized State 4-H Roundup and served as an adviser to the Collegiate 4-H Club and the state 4-H officers.
“Wilma was the adviser to my state officer team and I worked with her as a student worker in the state 4-H office,” said Karla Knoepfli, assistant Extension specialist. “She was extremely dedicated to 4-H. What I remember most is her smile, laughter and light-hearted spirit.”
Aside from working with youth in Oklahoma, Pattillo was interested in experiencing other cultures and learning about other youth development organizations around the world.
She completed a 30-day tour of Botswana and Kenya in Africa, where she delved into the operations of their 4-H programs. She believed gaining a global perspective on and learning from other organizations benefited Oklahoma 4-H’s programming efforts.
Pattillo also worked to provide international experiences to youth. Under her leadership, Oklahoma 4-H’ers participated in exchange programs in Sweden, Netherlands and other European countries.
Pattillo’s 4-H legacy not only continues in the lives of those she has influenced, but also in the scholarship fund she established.
Keller said her mother’s passion for sewing and servant’s heart led her to donate to the Foundation.
“She liked to help young people and felt it would be a good way to give back to the 4-H program and encourage others to enjoy and learn more about something she loved,” she said.
Before her passing in 2000, Pattillo had been making payments to fund an endowment for the Level I Fabrics and Fashions scholarship. In 2014, Keller and her husband fully funded the endowment.
“Donors to the Foundation all have a different purpose that motivates their giving,” said Blayne Arthur, executive director of the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation. “Karen has been incredibly generous in supporting 4-H members in honor of her mother’s life of dedication to 4-H.”
Keller and her husband decided to continue honoring her mother’s life by funding a new scholarship endowment for 4-H members in the fabrics and fashions project area.
Starting in 2019, members will have the opportunity to win the new Oklahoma 4-H Level II Fabrics and Fashions Scholarship.
“Karen’s love and appreciation for her mother and the 4-H program is extremely evident and will continue to benefit youth for decades to come,” Arthur said.
To Keller, helping youth succeed in all aspects of life remains a priority.
“I am pleased to see young people pursue a dream and get recognized as the same time,” she said. “I believe 4-H empowers our youth and gives them confidence in themselves.”
Photo provided by Karen Keller