Duncans’ 55 Years of Service Culminate in Hall of Fame

10/12/2013 7:00 AM
By Jessica Rose Spangler Reporter

CARLISLE, Pa. — Although he is technically retired from Penn State Cooperative Extension, one 76-year-old doesn’t let that keep him away from 4-H and youth programs.

Duane Duncan not only grew up in 4-H, but obtained an agriculture education degree, and spent every day of his life — and still counting — working with youth, 4-H and Extension programs.

His wife of 55 years, Donna Duncan, has been by his side for all of it, organizing and volunteering for numerous clubs, organizations and livestock shows.

Yesterday, Oct. 11, Duane Duncan was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame. He is only the third Pennsylvanian to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, after Charles McBride and Urania Bell “Rainy” Linn were both part of the first class of laureates in 2002.

A coworker of Duane’s, Kathy Walton, said, “Duane’s sense of humor, easygoing personality and love of agriculture made him a popular county agent. His love of children and 4-H made him an extraordinary 4-H volunteer. It is right that he is now in the National 4-H Hall of Fame.”

“Duane is a devoted supporter of 4-H,” said Pam Tracey, Cumberland County 4-H youth development educator. “He believes in and encourages 4-H members in their endeavors. It is a pleasure to work with Duane and Donna, and I have appreciated their knowledge of and history in the 4-H program in Cumberland County.”

Growing up on a pig and tomato operation in Erie County, Pa., Duane Duncan was involved with 4-H from an early age, showing hogs and a dairy calf.

In 1954, he traveled to Penn State, majoring in agriculture education. For his in-class teacher training, Duane Duncan traveled west to Lawrence County, Pa. There, he met his future bride, Donna Walters. A 4-H’er herself, Donna was raised on a Jersey dairy farm.

After Duane Duncan graduated from Penn State on June 7, 1958, he got his first Extension position in Adams County, Pa., starting on June 9. As the assistant county agent, he spent a lot of his summers working with 4-H programs.

“Being so close to Harrisburg, it was a great opportunity to get young people involved” at state functions, like the Junior Dairy Show, Duane Duncan said.

After spending 9 years in Adams County, Duane and Donna Duncan made the short move to Cumberland County, Pa., where he became the county agent, later officially referred to as the county Extension director.

Being the county agent, Duane Duncan saw a need for his coworkers in Extension to associate with people in other agriculture areas.

“We needed to keep up with what everyone else was doing because we were all working with the same farms,” he said.

Therefore, he created an Ag Leaders Group where representatives from groups like Extension, farm credit, conservation and forestry could meet every six to eight weeks for breakfast and stay up to date on each other’s projects.

While the bulk of his time was spent conducting adult dairy programs, Duane Duncan kept a strong presence in 4-H.

Donna Duncan recalls that while Duane may not have organized the original countywide 4-H horse club, with his help it quickly grew to around 50 participants. He also worked with the countywide dairy club and its 30 to 35 members.

“I got to know the kids first, and mom and dad followed,” Duane Duncan said. “I loved working with the young people and watching them develop into neat people doing something with their life.”

He wasn’t only involved with local horse clubs, but he’s been the treasurer for the Pennsylvania 4-H Horse Program and Show since 1980.

For more years than he can remember, Duane Duncan has also been the announcer for the 4-H Mounted Drill Team activities at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

A passion he and Donna Duncan share is their involvement with TRACC, the Therapeutic Riding Association of Cumberland County.

“It’s for handicapped children mostly. We helped to start it and Duane’s still on the board today,” Donna Duncan said. “Those individuals who participate get quite a thrill and react so favorably” to the horses.

“It’s amazing to see how well the kids respond,” Duane Duncan added.

One activity that he was, and still is, heavily involved in, is the farm safety quiz bowl. He brought the already established program to Cumberland County, organizing teams and helping the youth learn about safety.

“I’ve been doing it so long I can’t even tell you when I started,” he said.

Yet another series Duane Duncan started in Cumberland County was the Cow to School Program for elementary schools. Beginning in the 1970s, he would arrange for a farmer to bring a cow to the schoolyard, and then classes of students would gather around and speak directly to the farmer about his animal.

“They visited over 80,000 students from 1974 through 1992,” Donna Duncan said.

Additionally, Duane Duncan was the secretary of the Pennsylvania Junior Dairy Show from 1972 until 1991. He’s quick to point out that though he may have held the title, Donna Duncan needs as much of the credit because she did all the work with him.

“We had to catalog all the animals, usually 800 to 1,000 animals, type in all the information and make all the posters,” she said.

In 2005, during the 50th Pennsylvania Junior Dairy Show, Duane Duncan received a Lifetime Achievement Award honoring his years of dedication to the show.

Beginning in 1974 and still going strong, Duane Duncan also is the superintendent of the 4-H and FFA Dairy Judging Forum held during the All-American Dairy Show each September. The forum includes a dairy management quiz, judging and dairy linear type classes.

In 2011, Duane and Donna Duncan were jointly named the All-American Dairy Show Image Award winners. According to the All-American website, the award is “presented annually to an individual who has enhanced the image of the All-American Dairy Show by significant contributions toward its reputation, prestige and welfare.”

Even though he officially retired in 2003, Duane Duncan has remained active. He’s also expanded his involvement with the Rotary Club of Carlisle into a new project that he and Donna Duncan enjoy doing together.

Each spring, the Rotary Club decorates downtown Carlisle, Pa., with flower baskets. In the fall, Duane and Donna Duncan hated to see all of the baskets, dirt included, simply discarded.

Their solution: reuse them for a different purpose.

Now, once all of the used baskets are collected and old flowers removed, the soil is combined together and sieved to remove any leftover roots. After soil is put back into the baskets, donated flowers are planted and the baskets are then given to a local nursing home.

The couple has 4-H members assist with the flower project each year.

On top of all these activities, Duane Duncan has been on the Carlisle Fair Association board of directors since 2003; served on multiple committees within the National Association of 4-H Extension Agents and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents; was inducted into the NACAA Hall of Fame in 2006; is a member of the Delta Theta Sigma board of directors at Penn State; is a member of Gamma Sigma Delta, an honorary society of agriculturists; and is a member of Epsilon Sigma Phi, an honorary society of Extension professionals.

Looking back over their years of involvement, Donna Duncan summed it up: “We don’t have any children of our own, but we have a lot of kids that are pretty special.”

“We’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people. I hope we’ve had a part in making their life better,” Duane Duncan said. “A goal of mine was to help youth learn ways to help themselves develop a vision, set a course of action and accomplish their goals.”

Editor’s note: While the official National 4-H Hall of Fame induction took place yesterday in Maryland, the public is welcome to attend a reception in Duane Duncan’s honor at the Cumberland County Extension Office, 310 Allen Road, Suite 601, Carlisle, Pa., on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 1-4 p.m.



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