The Illinois 4-H Foundation of the University of Illinois Extension named five 4-H alumni – Carole Craig of Merritt Island, Fla., Ray and Ellen Hankes of Gibson City, John Slayton of Springfield, and Bradley Cash of Paris – as recipients of its 2011 awards. The awards were presented at the annual ACES College Connection event on Nov. 18 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana.
4-H Alumni Award
Carole Craig, recipient of a 4-H Alumni Award, is President and CEO of Craig Technologies, a company that specializes in information technology and engineering solutions for commercial and government entities. She credits the opportunity she had to work with computers in 4-H with influencing her choice of a career in technology.
Prior to starting her company, she served as a P-3C Orion naval flight officer. As part of her military service, she supervised an IT department, developing aviation programs and a website for the squadron. Craig has received numerous awards, including the Society of Women Engineers Entrepreneur Award in 2008. She has also served on the boards of several Florida-based non-profit organizations and on the Board of Overseers of the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business.
4-H Alumni Award
For the first time, a couple was awarded the 4-H Alumni Award. Ray and Ellen Hankes have been heavily involved with 4-H for many years, serving as club leaders, livestock judging team coaches, judges at contests and fairs, and workshop hosts.
They have also provided 4-H opportunities to non-farming families and furthered community awareness of 4-H. Ray, who recently retired from Tyson Foods, has a Ph.D. in meat science and ruminant nutrition from the U of I. He has served as president of the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board. Ellen is a former high school home economics teacher who is active in pork producer activities. She was the first woman president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association and was involved in the discussion that led to the Livestock Facilities Act.
The couple owned a farm for 25 years, but Ray eventually moved into business consulting while Ellen took a position as coordinator for the Illinois Coalition for Animal Agriculture. Both Ray and Ellen have received numerous awards for their industry service.
Friend of 4-H Award
John Slayton received the Friend of 4-H Award, which recognizes a person or organization whose leadership, action, and support have contributed to improving and promoting Illinois youth.
As a youth, Slayton showed shorthorns in 4-H shows. Since then, he has devoted a considerable amount of his time and energy to 4-H, and has been in charge of the Sale of Champions for the past 25 years. Thanks to his innovative ideas, these sales raised thousands of dollars and kept the face of 4-H in public view. He works closely with major agricultural corporations, the U of I, the Illinois State Fair, and friends of agriculture to ensure that the money supports the 4-H program in Illinois. In addition, he has served on numerous boards for the Illinois State Fair and is involved in various community activities.
Larry Fischer Leadership and Spirit Award
Bradley Cash received the Larry Fischer Leadership and Spirit Award, which honors county 4-H or Extension foundation board members or other county fundraising volunteers who exemplify the spirit of "making the best better" for their county's 4-H or Extension fundraising efforts.
Cash has been involved with 4-H for most of his life. During his senior year in high school, he completed 32 projects, including the development of an aerospace project program for his county 4-H. As an adult, he became a 4-H leader in his home club of Bell Ridge and has served for 32 years. One of his activities with the club has been to establish a recycling program at the fairgrounds.
In 1979, he purchased a greenhouse/florist operation now known as Brad's Florist of Paris. The florist industry has honored him with several awards. He received an American Future Farmers of America degree in 1979, and has been an active member of his local Lions Club, serving on most of its committees and holding all of the offices, including 15 years as secretary.