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Dr. Alvin (Aho) Andrews: "I give to 4-H because it's important to be good stewards and replace what we’ve taken."

Dr. Alvin (Aho) Andrews has been a consistent financial supporter of Minnesota 4-H since 2011. I recently had a conversation with him to learn a little about his 4-H story and why he gives to the Minnesota 4-H Foundation. Being a good steward of what's been given is a powerful motivator for this retired educator. Here's a peek into our lovely discussion.

Erin Kelly-Collins: Tell me a little about your experience as a Minnesota 4-H’er.
Al Andrews: I grew up in Cook County 4-H in the 1940’s. My mother was our 4-H leader and always pressed us boys to grow and stretch through our projects. We raised sheep, dairy cows, chickens, ducks and geese. Demonstrations were important as well and I remember working hard to improve in those over the years.

EKC: Did you take on any leadership roles as an older 4-H’er?
AA: Oh yes. I spent a lot of time helping the younger children in our club get ready for the fair each year. I loved encouraging them to stay with it, even when their projects were hard, encouraging and supporting them however I could.

EKC: You mentioned in a letter to me that you knew Leonard Harkness. Would you tell me about that?

AA: I was selected in 1952 as one of four 4-H’ers from Minnesota to spend two weeks traveling on the Corn Belt Special, touring the eastern seaboard and parts of Canada along with a week stay and tour of Washington D.C. I made a TV appearance with Senator Humphrey and a Rose garden appearance with President Eisenhower. Leonard Harkness was our leader for that trip, which was the beginning of a long and special relationship between us.
During senior year at the
University of Minnesota

Leonard was my mentor and friend. He encouraged me to make speeches across the state after my trip in 1952, which were extremely valuable in preparation for my career in education administration and as a university instructor. It was an unforgettable experience for an 18 year old and Leonard was an important part of it.

EKC: I’m curious about your academic journey. Did you attend the University of Minnesota?
AA: I graduated from Cook High School in 1953 and from Virginia Jr. College in 1955 before starting at the University of Minnesota. I pledged to Farm House and was very excited to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. Unfortunately, my father died that same fall, which meant that five years at the U wasn’t a financial possibility anymore. I switched my major to agricultural education. We just didn’t take out loans for education back in those days.

During my years at the U I helped organize a vocal-instrumental quartet, later known as “The Troubadours.” One of our exciting performances was at the Fair Grounds Pavilion for a group of 4-H’ers from throughout the Midwest. Our leader, George Langemo from Kenyon, told the enthusiastic teenagers that the applause was appreciated, but we’d prefer money! We had to run for cover from the hail of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarter that hit us on stage!

EKC: And after finishing at the U you started teaching, right?
AA: That’s right! I was an agriculture teacher in Cleveland, MN for three years after finishing at the U. I loved working in schools and was encouraged by my colleagues to further my education and serve in administration. I was a school principal in Randolph, MN for three years before moving with my wife and children to Wisconsin. There I continued to be a school principal and eventually accepted a research assistantship at University of Wisconsin –Madison where I earned my PhD in Education Administration with a minor in public finance. My first superintendency was in the Kettle Moraine School District in Waukesha County from 1972-1978. During this time I had the opportunity to teach school finance and collective bargaining for the UW Extension graduate program.

The highlight of my career was serving as the Superintendent of Schools in Bismarck, ND from 1978 to 1986. There were so many exciting accomplishments during my time there. A few of those accomplishment included having twice the number of gifted and talented students found in most high school programs, improving our secondary schools’ test scores to the top 15% in the nation, and established one of the first three programs in the country involving music therapy for emotionally disturbed youth.

EKC: Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota…How did you end up in California?!
AA: After our kids grew up and left home, my wife and I decided to try something new and go exploring out west. It’s wonderful out here, but I often dream of moving back to my home state of Minnesota. However, I don’t think I’ll ever convince Jean to leave 365 days of sunshine, even though she was also born in Minnesota and graduated from St. Cloud State!

EKC: Why do you give to Minnesota 4-H?
AA: I have a strong affinity for my home state. My grandfather homesteaded in northeastern Minnesota and my heart will always be there. 4-H was a special part of my growing up; it was where I first discovered the joy of education, of teaching. I learned so much from 4-H. I give back as an expression of my gratitude.
With father and brother in Cook County
circa 1950

It’s so important to be good stewards and replace what we’ve taken. That’s why I started a foundation that restores the white pine and other trees that used to grow abundantly in northern Minnesota, restoring what my grandfather and father were given all those years ago. And that’s why I give to 4-H. I was given so much. I want to give back so there are more wonderful 4-H experiences for many more kids in the years to come.

If you would like to learn more about how your gift can directly impact 4-H in your community, please contact the Minnesota 4-H Foundation staff. We'd be happy to help you!

Erin Kelly-Collins

Alumni coordinator
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
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