By: Paul Schattenberg
COLLEGE STATION – Margaret Christine “Chris” Holcombe will be posthumously inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame this October during a ceremony at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
“We are pleased and excited to announce Chris will be inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame this fall,” said Dr. Chris Boleman, National 4-H Council board member and state leader for Texas 4-H Youth Development. “Chris was a shining example of what 4-H is all about.”
Holcombe retired in 2001 after serving 35 years as the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for family and consumer sciences in Milam County.
Christine “Chris” Holcombe will be posthumously inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame this fall in Chevy Chase, Maryland, at a ceremony to he held during National 4-H week. (Photo courtesy of Bill Holcombe)
Boleman said Holcombe’s 4-H career did not start with her AgriLife Extension position but as a 4-H member in Travis County in 1951. For 13 years she learned experienced opportunities, including National 4-H Conference and National 4-H Congress, as a State 4-H Record Book winner, State 4-H Council member, 4-H State Roundup winner, Gold Star Girl and District 4-H Council officer. She also won the Texas 4-H Foundation Home Demonstration Scholarship and received myriad other awards and honors.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1967, Holcombe had the opportunity to continue her 4-H passion as an agent. In fact, “opportunity” was one of her favorite words, said her son, Bill Holcombe, who has served for 10 years as an AgriLife Extension agent for 4-H youth development in Galveston County.
“Mom would always tell people, ‘I have an opportunity for you,’” he said. “That really meant she needed their help for one project or another because she knew she couldn’t do it all herself. But the people she asked knew my mom and how dedicated she was to 4-H, so they had trouble saying no to her.”
He said she meant the word “opportunity” when she used it, as 4-H had provided many opportunities for her when she was a youth.
“Mom and her siblings were from rural Travis County and didn’t have the resources other kids had,” he said. “But through 4-H, mom was able to attend the 4-H Congress in Chicago and 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C., where she saw President Lyndon Johnson. And she was among the first females to receive a 4-H scholarship. The program gave her many opportunities she wanted to share with other rural youth after she moved to Milam County.”
Throughout her career, Holcombe served as a 4-H coordinator, teaching in almost every project area, Boleman said.
“If 4-H’ers wanted to learn a new project, she would learn as she coached,” he said. “She wasn’t afraid to get involved in any aspect of 4-H project instruction, including insect identification as part of entomology education, consumer decision making and meat judging.”
She also had a special talent to recruit volunteer leaders to teach and sponsors to help fund awards, Boleman said.
“They had no doubt that it was the right thing to put their time, talent and financial support behind Holcombe’s ‘opportunities’ for Milam County youth,” he said.
Boleman said Holcombe’s dedication resulted in countless first-place state winners at the 4-H Roundup, 4-H record book competition, San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and Fort Worth Livestock Exposition. She also inspired 4-H’ers to become more involved in programs and activities – and to experience new adventures like 4-H State Roundup, 4-H National Congress and 4-H National Conference.
“Winning was always fun for Chris, but it really didn’t matter to her how you placed as long as you did your best,” Boleman said. “You could always hear her voice over the crowd as awards were given. And it wasn’t just one or two special 4-H’ers getting a push from her, it was hundreds of youth each year — in Milam County and across the state. Milam County kids were always special, but she had too much passion to stop at the county line.”
Boleman said an example of her reaching past county lines was Holcombe’s establishing state invitational plant identification and range evaluation contests for 4-H and FFA members, which were held in Milam County but brought in people from across the state.
“The contest has grown since the start in 1990 and now gives $10,000 in scholarships each year,” Boleman said. “She was a sower of seeds that continue to spread and touch many lives and provided opportunities that developed 4-Hers and expanded their learning experiences. And nowhere was this exemplified better than the 191 4-H’ers whose lives she touched receiving more than $1.5 million in scholarships.”
Boleman said Holcombe’s legacy continued after her death in early 2013 when three scholarship programs were created in her name — one for 4-H’ers, one open to any graduating senior from C.H. Yoe High School and one for any student already attending college who graduated from a Milam County high school.
“This demonstrated that the community wanted to honor Chris’ work and remember the standard she lived and expected of others,” he said. “She expected others to get involved in organizations and give back to their communities. And she led by example through being active in many civic organizations.”
Even after retirement and nine years of battling cancer, Holcombe continued to provide opportunities to help others grow, Boleman said.
“She grew lots of youth, including doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, professors, military officers and a national TV reporter, but whomever she touched grew as a person,” he said. “She was and will continue to be a national leader because her ‘opportunities’ are still being spread across the nation by hundreds who were touched by her during her lifetime — and even beyond.”
Boleman noted that Holcombe’s legacy with AgriLife Extension and 4-H continues through not only her son Bill, but also her sister, Cheryl Walker, who succeeded Holcombe in Milam County and her daughter-in-law, Micah Holcombe, who serves as the current AgriLife Extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Milam County.
For more information about Milam County 4-H, please call the AgriLife Extension office at 254-697-7045 or email Micah Holcombe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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