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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Eichelberger to receive National 4-H Hall of Fame Award

"4-H has made me everything I am."

That's tall praise from a woman whose family name adorns the University of Illinois woman's softball field, but it is said with the sincerest gratitude about the youth development program which she says instilled her desire for lifetime service and learning.

Lila Jeanne Eichelberger of Champaign will be inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame on Oct. 7 during National 4-H Week for her lifetime achievements and contributions to 4-H. Honored by the University of Illinois Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, Eichelberger will be one of 16 people inducted during the ceremony at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md.

A woman of remarkable grace and dedication, Lila Jeanne tirelessly campaigns with her time, talent, energy and financial resources to the advancement of Illinois 4-H, 4-H Memorial Camp, 4-H House, University of Illinois, and Illini Sports, said Angie Barnard, Illinois 4-H Foundation executive director.

Eichelberger has made financial gifts to U of I and Illinois 4-H every year for 39 years. In total, her giving exceeds $2 million. In 2000, she created an endowment to honor her late mother, a 50-year 4-H leader. Today, she continues to add value with an estate commitment which will endow the Margarette E. Athey 4-H Adult Volunteer Leader Development Fund at over a quarter-million dollars.

As a student, Lila Jeanne thrived at U of I and as a member of 4-H House. Today, she actively supports 4-H college scholarships for youth to learn. A permanent endowment of more than $25,000 will support 4-H Legacy of Leadership scholarships in perpetuity. She continues to stay involved with the 4-H House Alumni Association as a 10+ year member of the board, volunteer property manager, and mentor to girls who strive to further their 4-H leadership skills in a cooperative living environment during college.

Lila Jeanne is a strong supporter of Illini athletics. Her most recent contribution of $2 million provided funding to build Eichelberger Field, the women's softball complex. She also supports baseball, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and actively mentors student athletes. Lila Jeanne served youth throughout her 40-year teaching career. She continues to devote her life to the betterment of all Illinois youth today and into the future through her sustained philanthropy.

"I applied all the skills I learned in 4-H everywhere I went," Lila Jeanne said, from college at U of I to her 40-year career as an educator. "I would never have been at the university if it hadn't been for 4-H," and added it was her 4-H Guernsey dairy project which provided the money for her to go to college.

Don't even suggest 4-H has lost its usefulness to this 4-H alumna. "4-H is probably even more valuable now to far more people that really need it than ever before," Lila Jeanne said, noting that 4-H's expansion into urban and metro areas provides much needed experiences for first-generation 4-H youth.

"We have a great, great responsibility to help those kids," she said. To register as a 4-H alum, go online to


Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.