Charles Denney, Producer, UTIA Marketing & Communications
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Of the four “H’s” in 4-H – head, heart, hands and health – it was his heart that he gave away so willingly. Some five decades ago, Steve Sutton pledged his heart to greater loyalty. Now years later, he is being recognized as someone who has made a lifetime commitment to Tennessee youth.
Sutton was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Oct. 6, 2017. He is one of 16 people to be inducted this year, and one of seven Tennesseans to have received this honor. Sutton will be presented with a medallion, plaque and memory book during the ceremony. He was nominated for the award by his home state, the National 4-H Council and National Association of Extension 4-H Agents.
Sutton worked more than 40 years for University of Tennessee Extension as a 4-H agent, specialist and eventually as leader of the entire statewide organization. He began as a 4-H’er himself in his native Newport, and after graduating from the University of Tennessee, became an agent in Washington County. In 1986, he joined the state 4-H staff in Knoxville, and later was named director. He was recognized in 2015 with Tennessee’s prestigious Friend of 4-H Award.
“4-H has been good to me,” Sutton says. “As a youth, it helped me develop confidence and skills to achieve things beyond my wildest dreams. As a profession, it has allowed me to make a difference in the lives of countless young people. Throughout my career, I have had the support of a loving family, excellent mentors, dedicated co-workers and caring volunteers. I would be remiss not to share my success I may have achieved with them. I humbly accept this award on their behalf.”
Citizenship education has been a priority for Sutton. Providing leadership for the Tennessee 4-H Know Your Government program, he created opportunities for thousands of high school students to experience government through mock legislative sessions in the state house and senate chambers. He was also a leader in the Tennessee Seeds of Service program. Almost 300,000 youth and adults have donated more than half a million hours of service.
Sutton was a founder of the Junior High Academic Conference where 4-H members are afforded learning opportunities with UT professors, and he co-founded 4-H Electric Camp, where young would-be scientists and engineers learn the world of energy and power. He also has provided leadership for 4-H Congress and 4-H Roundup, and led a 4-H delegation to Japan.
On a national level, Sutton was a member of the National 4-H Congress design team for five years serving as chair of the headquarters committee in 2012. He also served two, 2-year terms on the National 4-H Congress Board of Directors.
As a 30-year member of NAE4-HA, Sutton has been recognized with the Distinguished Service Award, American Spirit Award, Meritorious Service Award, and Air Force Recruiting Award. He is also a member of Epsilon Sigma Phi, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Sigma Delta, and the UTIA Retirees Association.
In his retirement, he continues with his favorite hobby — travel. In addition to several trips to Japan, he’s visited Korea, Thailand, Russia, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Canada; and he looks forward to adding to this list.
“It’s so fitting that Steve Sutton is being recognized in the National 4-H Hall of Fame,” says UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross. “He’s literally devoted his entire life to 4-H — as a youth, Ex- tension agent, as State 4-H program leader, and now as a volunteer and donor. His father was an Extension agent, so Steve’s blood has always run green. And he’s committed to making the best better.”
“We are proud to recognize the 2017 National 4-H Hall of Fame honorees for the passion, dedication, vision and leadership they have shown toward young people during their many years of service to 4-H,” says Jeannette Rea Keywood, National 4-H Hall of Fame Commit- tee chair.
Other Tennesseans who have been inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame are Peggy Adkins, Jim Byford, Lloyd Downen, George Foster, Ben Powell and Martha Jo Tolley.
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Contact: Charles Denney, 865-382-8058 (mobile).