West Virginia University alumna Doris Jean Keller started her 4-H experience as a 10-year-old growing up in Burlington, but her dedication to the program as a member, leader, volunteer and supporter has lasted a lifetime.
Her experience with the organization inspired both Keller and her husband, Dick, also a WVU graduate, to establish the Keller Mineral County 4-H Endowment. The endowment will provide discretionary funding to the Mineral County 4-H program for scholarships, travel assistance to 4-H events for volunteers and youths and program support.
"Dick and I both feel that the 4-H program is still important today," Keller said "I firmly believe that scholarships to camp and other experiences are beneficial to the 4-H youth."
Mineral County WVU Extension 4-H agent Margaret Miltenberger said the gift will become a fund that the program can build on.
"The Kellers have created a true legacy of the Mineral County 4-H program," Miltenberger said. "This funding will ensure the strength and viability of the program for years to come, and we hope that it will also serve as a beacon for future investments in the program by other former 4-H'ers and friends of the program."
Doris Jean Keller's 4-H roots are deep. She and her brother were active in the Klover 4-H Club in Burlington. She has fond memories of attending county camp, Girls State and Older Youth 4-H camps at WVU Jackson's Mill. Her aunt, Lola Bane, was the leader of the Klover Club for many years.
"We had good 4-H agents in the county, Florence Howard and June Myers," Keller said. "The leaders were very inspiring. I remember Ruth Knoch Jones' clothing classes, which influenced me in becoming a home economics teacher.
"My mother was active in the local Farm Women's Club and went to meetings and home demonstration activities at Jackson's Mill, and, of course, that was an influence on me as well," she said.
Doris Jean Keller and her husband attended Potomac State College and then WVU. She earned degrees in home economics and home economics education, while he became an electrical engineer. Following graduation, they married and made their home in Keyser. Together they raised two sons and a daughter, all of whom were 4-H'ers and graduated from WVU.
While her children were growing up, Doris Jean Keller served for many years as leader of their Golddiggers 4-H Club in Keyser. Dick Keller was a dutiful 4-H leader spouse, driving the carpool, toting the boxes, posters and other equipment to activities.
Doris Jean Keller credits participation in the demonstrations and talks with helping her daughter, Patricia, develop her public speaking skills. Those skills have served her daughter well in her career as a family law judge in Cabell County.
Doris Jean Keller taught for 28 years in high schools in Mineral County and at the West Virginia School for the Blind, while her husband had a 31-year career as an electrical engineer with Westvaco/Mead Westvaco in Luke, Md. They both retired in 1994.
The Kellers are active members of Grace United Methodist Church in Keyser. Doris Jean Keller also teaches an Active for Life exercise program at the local senior center and is a member of the Busy Bees CEOS and Alpha Delta Kappa, a sorority for women educators.
The WVU Extension Service operates the 4-H program through local offices in every county of the state. Through clubs, special interest groups, camps, after-school programs and individual projects, 4-H reaches more than 77,000 - or one out of every four - young people statewide. They are supported by more than 7,200 adult volunteers who serve as mentors.
The Kellers' endowment gift is being made through the WVU Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation that generates and provides support for WVU.