COLLEGE STATION — Dr. Martha E. Couch, Texas AgriLife Extension Service associate director – emeritus, 4-H and youth development, has been selected for induction into the National 4-H Hall of Fame.
Couch’s formal induction will take place Oct. 12 at the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Md.
She was nominated for the honor by Dr. Toby Lepley, AgriLife Extension 4-H and youth development specialist, and Sue Ferguson, assistant to the state 4-H program director.
“We nominated Dr. Couch on behalf of the more than 640,000 youth involved in Texas 4-H, the more than 1,200 employees of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, and the countless youth that Martha Couch has helped through her efforts,” Lepley said. “There was absolutely no one else who we felt should be selected to represent Texas in the National 4-H Hall of Fame. Martha is an accomplished youth leader and award winner and has won the Texas 4-H Gold Star Award — the highest honor Texas 4-H can bestow.”
Couch said she was overwhelmed by the honor and that it represented “things coming full circle” in her experiences through 4-H and AgriLife Extension.
“I grew up on a farm about 17 miles from Big Spring, and it was 4-H that brought me in contact with other people, helped me learn how to speak in public and got me interested in college,” Couch said. “During my Extension career, I also had a mentor who inspired me to get my master’s and doctoral degrees. In all, I have spent 53 years in 4-H and working with 4-H through AgriLife Extension, and these experiences have all connected in my receiving this honor.”
Couch earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics, master’s degree in family studies and doctoral degree in home economics, all from Texas Tech University. Her 36-year career with AgriLife Extension began in 1972 with her work as a county agent in Gaines County. In 1975, she was promoted to AgriLife Extension 4-H and youth development specialist for the Texas Panhandle districts, then was later promoted to district administrator in Amarillo. In 1997, she was named associate director for 4-H and youth development – a position she held until her retirement in 2008.
Couch served on the National 4-H Congress Design Team in various leadership roles, as well as serving as a representative for the southern region on the National 4-H TRUST. At the regional-leader level, she served as chair of the 4-H Program Leaders, Southern Region Leaders Forum chairman, and in other regional leadership roles. She also served as administrative adviser to several 4-H committees.
During her career with AgriLife Extension, Couch has received numerous awards, including selection as a Texas Tech University Distinguished Alumni and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service Superior Service Award in the category of Administration.”
In a letter supporting Couch’s nomination for her agency’s Superior Service Award, Charles Cox, assistant director and program leader for 4-H Youth Development at the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, part of Oklahoma State University, lauded her.
“Dr. Couch is valued among the State 4-H Program Leaders group for her honesty and her willingness to challenge us to not only think outside the box, but to also consider the pros and cons of actions that we take in providing leadership to the nation’s largest youth-serving program,” Cox wrote. “She brings not only a great deal of wisdom and experience to the table, but also a good dose of common sense.”
Another of Couch’s cohorts, Dr. Roger Ryles, now the retired director of 4-H for the state of Georgia, wrote: “Dr. Martha Couch is one of the most respected leaders in the field of youth development. Her work has impacted millions of youth and is regarded as a standard for the nation.”
“The degree and level of citizenship and leadership that Martha has provided to the youth of Texas is overwhelming,” Lepley said. “Her leadership, driven by her passion, loyalty, energy, and unwavering support, has made her a legend in the 100-plus years of Texas 4-H.”
“Under Martha’s leadership as a member of the 4-H faculty and as its program leader, the Texas 4-H and Youth Development Program experienced many milestone accomplishments,” Lepley said.
He said some of the 4-H and Youth Development Program milestones during Couch’s service included development of a comprehensive management guide/curriculum for use by Extension employees and volunteers for the statewide 4-H program, which reached more than one million members; the Texas 4-H centennial celebration; development and implementation of youth protection standards; and the state’s recognition of the 4-H Character Education Program, which now reaches more than 100,000 youth annually.
“The Texas 4-H Program also reached a milestone of awarding more than $2 million in higher-education scholarships for members who were seniors in high school, and we established county youth boards to allow relevant input from youth on the direction of 4-H and youth programming at the county level,” he said.
Lepley also noted that even in her retirement Dr. Couch continues to support the youth of Texas 4-H through her assistance with programming, support of 4-H’s day of community service, volunteer recognition and assistance with camps held at the Texas 4-H Conference Center in Brownwood.
“This is something I never would have expected – being inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame,” Couch said. “4-H has given me so much through my lifetime, and I’m grateful the organization has deemed me worthy to receive such extraordinary recognition.”