A Gift of Gratitude

Published: May 3, 2024
Patti Price and her 4-H friends were featured in a local newspaper as they prepared for an exchange trip in 1969.

4‑H Experience Translates to Jasper County Endowment

“Merci beaucoup, 4‑H!” Or, for the non-French speaker, “Thank you very much!” Patti Price credits her 4‑H experience for her deep interest in languages and in science. Growing up in Rensselaer in Jasper County, 4‑H was a big part of her childhood. From one of her very first meetings, she was exposed to the “Learning by Doing” motto.

“One of our first club projects was to make brownies,” Patti said. “The junior leader gave each 4‑Her an ingredient that had to be halved or doubled. Then we all tasted them and talked about whether we liked it or not. I thought, ‘This is science, how to do an experiment, but with brownies. How cool is that?’ It was also about judging ourselves and not just waiting for the teacher to give a grade.”

Patti remained active in 4‑H through high school, focusing on projects in sewing, foods, and dog training. She also went on to be a Junior Leader, gaining important leadership skills as she planned activities and helped organize the club meetings. But it was her participation in a 4‑H exchange program called Teen Caravan that left the biggest mark.

Patti Price and her 4‑H friends were featured in a local newspaper as they prepared for an exchange trip in 1969.

Between her junior and senior year of high school, Patti and a group of fellow students traveled to France where they stayed with local families, and, at the end, had a few days’ tour of Europe. “It was an incredibly eye-opening experience for so many reasons. The trip piqued my interest in language, and I was grateful for the chance to experience other perspectives on life,” Patti said.

The trip also sparked an interest in attending college, something she hadn’t seriously considered before. “My parents told me I shouldn’t think about college because it wasn’t that important for girls. But in France, college was subsidized by the government, and a lot more people went, including women. I was really inspired to try to go to college from that experience.”

Patti did go on to pursue her undergraduate degree – and then some. The interests she developed in math, science, and language during 4‑H led to an undergraduate degree in Math and French, followed by a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and a postdoctoral in Electrical Engineering from MIT.

Ultimately, Patti landed in California where she enjoyed a successful career in automatic speech recognition, and developing technology to help children learn to read. Though her education and career carried her throughout the United States and the world, her Jasper County 4‑H experience was never far from her mind.

“Shortly after I graduated out of 4‑H, I became a lifetime member,” Patti said. “I thought it was such an important program, so I had to remain connected.”

Once she fully retired, Patti began estate planning and wanted to honor the significant influence 4‑H had on her life. “Those collective 4‑H experiences really affected how I behaved, and I truly owe a lot of big things in my life to the program.” It was out of that gratitude that Patti established the Jasper County 4‑H Endowment with a $25,000 commitment from charitable IRA distributions.

“Once I turned 70 ½ I thought this was a great way to create a reliable long-term source of funding for the county 4‑H program. It came full circle for me because I received a lot of the stock in my IRA because of my career – a career I may not have had were it not for my 4‑H.”

Though Patti no longer has family in Jasper County, she is excited to give back to a program that was instrumental in her life.

“Because my head is still pledged to clearer thinking, I remembered that my heart was pledged to greater loyalty,” Patti said.“And being loyal to 4‑H, I can be of greater service by helping 4‑H foster better living, starting with Jasper County.”

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