Retired Georgia 4-H Leader Roger “Bo” Ryles was one of 16 individuals named to the National 4-H Hall of Fame during a ceremony held Oct. 11 at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md.
Ryles was selected for the National 4-H Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to 4-H, the nation’s premier youth development organization, which serves more than 6.5 million youth across the U.S. The honorees received a National 4-H Hall of Fame medallion, plaque and a memory book.
With his induction into the hall of farme, Ryles joins past honorees from Georgia 4-H, including Tom Rodgers, Bill Sutton and Tommy Walton.
Influenced thousands of Georgia students
“During his tenure, Dr. Bo took a truly outstanding 4-H program to the next level, and Georgia 4-H became one of the most admired youth development programs in the nation, if not the world,” said Beverly Sparks, associate dean of University of Georgia Extension. “Thousands of our youth have benefitted from his leadership and passion for youth development.”
UGA Extension administers the 4-H program in Georgia.
Ryles led the Georgia 4-H program from 1994 to 2009, but his connection with 4-H began when he was a 10-year-old boy attending 4-H meetings in Dodge County, Ga. He stayed active in 4-H and became a 4-H district officer and a 4-H camp counselor. He was a state 4-H winner and earned Master 4-H status in recreation talent, crop production (national winner) and leadership scholarship.
While working toward an undergraduate degree in agricultural economics at the University of Georgia, Ryles served as a 4-H program assistant in the Clarke County Extension office. After graduation, he became the 4-H agent in McDuffie County and later the Clarke County 4-H agent.
He earned his master’s degree in Extension education in 1987 and later that year joined the Georgia 4-H state staff as an animal science specialist. In 1988 he was named the central district 4-H agent. He received a doctorate in adult education from UGA in 1994 and was appointed Georgia’s seventh state 4-H leader the same year.
Credits 4-H for his success
“No matter how long I live, I can never give back all 4-H has given to me, but I surely can keep working at it,” Ryles said. “4-H gave me a forum to gain confidence, gain knowledge, learn to communicate, and a safe place to fall down and get back up. This recognition is huge in my mind and even bigger in my heart.”
While leading the Georgia 4-H program, Ryles established the Georgia 4-H Green Jacket Award to recognize an outstanding public servant for significant support of 4-H. He also helped develop the volunteer-led Legacy Ball, a black-tie fundraising event that also recognizes the Georgia 4-H Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
During his 15 years leading the program, Georgia 4-H centers received more than $20 million in public and private funds for improvements. He was instrumental in acquiring what is now Fortson 4-H Center to replace the aging Fulton 4-H Center. He also co-founded and led the biennial Georgia Youth Summit, a program designed to increase youth awareness of state and local issues.
Internationally, Ryles led a team of youth and adults to Tunisia to initiate a 4-H type program in partnership with university systems in northern Africa. He also implemented a partnership in Puerto Rico, so students there can participate in an intensive program studying the environment and practicing citizenship.
Numerous other honors, too
In addition to the National 4-H Hall of Fame recognition, Ryles has received numerous 4-H honors, including the NAE4-HA Achievement in Service Award, NAE4-HA Distinguished Service Award, GAE4-HA Outstanding New Agent Award and the GAE4-HA 4-H Volunteer Program of the Year. He was inducted as an honorary member of the UGA AGHON Society and received the 4-H/Air Force Aim High Award.
Through his leadership, he influenced many Georgia children like Terri Kimble Fullerton who first met Ryles when she was a 4-H’er in Newton County.
“Dr. Bo was larger than life to me while I was a Junior and Senior 4-H’er. Maybe it was the height of the Rock Eagle stage, but he seemed 10 feet tall,” said Fullerton, now a 4-H agent in Newton County. “Even kids who never joined 4-H remark on what an inspiration he is when they meet him, especially when he sings for them. I guess you could say he’s still 10 feet tall to me.”
Now retired, Ryles continues to support Georgia 4-H as a 4-H volunteer, coach of the Oconee County 4-H Poultry Judging Team and co-director of the Georgia 4-H performing arts group Clovers and Company, a group he co-founded in 1980 with then Associate State 4-H Leader Bill Edwards. An avid runner, he established the Clover Glove Race Series to raise private funds for the Georgia 4-H Foundation, where he is a member of the board of trustees.
“While Bo’s achievements are many and his successes can be highlighted in facts, figures and numbers, what cannot be quantified are the personal and individual triumphs that so many youth attribute to Dr. Bo’s leadership,” said Georgia State 4-H Leader Arch Smith who nominated Ryles for the hall of fame honor. “Bo has dedicated his life to assisting 4-H members realize their goals and cultivating individual talents. The fact that he challenged others to pass the 4-H legacy to children is still developing leaders today.”