A Hilliard couple recently was recognized for supporting Ohio 4-H Youth Development programs.

A Hilliard couple recently was recognized for supporting Ohio 4-H Youth Development programs.

Clarence and Jane Cunningham were one of three couples and one foundation honored at the 15th annual Celebration of Youth banquet, held Oct. 13 at the Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau

4-H Center on the campus of Ohio State University. Jim and Marlene Helt of Mount Gilead, Bob and Joan McCoy of Cincinnati and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Dublin were the other honorees.

"We are pleased to honor Clarence and Jane (and others recognized Oct. 13) for their continuing commitment to 4-H in Ohio," said Robert Joseph, president of the board of directors of the Ohio 4H Foundation.

Nearly 300 current and former 4-H members and alumni attended the annual event, which raised more than $100,000 to benefit the Ohio 4-H Foundation, an organization that supports programs helping Ohio youth develop leadership skills and reach life goals.

"It was quite a humbling event as so many people do so many things for the foundation," said Jane Cunningham, a former member of the Ohio 4-H Foundation's board of directors.

The Cunninghams have been involved with Ohio 4-H programs since 1998, when the first Celebration of Youth banquet was initiated as a fundraising event.

One or both have been involved with the program's planning each year since.

Both were members of the steering committee that resulted in the construction of the $16.5 million Nationwide and Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, the only independent 4-H center on a college campus in the U.S.

Proceeds for its construction were privately donated.

The Cunninghams also established the Cunningham 4-H Leadership Fund, which has provided 15 youths with the opportunity to attend 4-H Club Congress, as well as a fund that awards academic scholarships to study 4-H related studies at Ohio State.

Jane Cunningham serves on the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation board of directors and also is a member of the Doctors Hospital Foundation board of directors.

She is a past board member of Children's Hunger Alliance and recently concluded a nine-year term on the board of directors of the Ohio 4-H Foundation.

Clarence Cunningham is a current board member for the Ohio 4-H Foundation.

Married 16 years, the Cunninghams met on a trip to Israel, arranged through Northwest United Methodist Church, where both are members.

Jane, who taught school in St. Louis and focused on student guidance in Illinois before concluding an educational career in Upper Arlington, joined her husband in his 4-H endeavors, whose passion for 4-H is rooted in his childhood.

"Clarence has worked tirelessly throughout his adult life to strengthen and expand extension and Ohio 4-H, and to make our programs more accessible to youth and adults in our state," Joseph said.

Clarence was a member of the Salt Creek Boys 4-H Club in Fredericksburg, and as a high school senior showed the grand champion Hereford steer in 1949 at the 100th Wayne County Fair. The steer earned fetched $1 per pound and funded his first year of education at Ohio State.

After graduating from Ohio State, he served two years in the military, served as a Pickaway County Extension 4-H agent and served on a state 4-H staff, arranging housing and itineraries of international visitors.

He earned a master's degree and doctorate from Ohio State and advised masters and doctoral candidates.

He also served as an associate director of extension at Ohio State, and in 1988 retired as professor emeritus of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science.

Clarence is a member of the Ohio 4-H Hall of Fame (2004) and the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame (2005).