4-H ADMINISTRATOR, Philanthropist
UT Knoxville, ’73, ’75
“I am the product of the land-grant university system.”
Ruth Henderson McQueen says her joy is to give back to the UT Extension program that began investing in her when she was in the fifth grade.
To a little girl growing up on a family farm with no indoor plumbing in Philadelphia, Tennessee, the world opened when she joined Tennessee 4-H. The youth development program gave her the opportunity to learn, grow and experience life beyond her rural one. The 4-H program taught her everything from public speaking and citizenship to how to sew and bake bread. She credits 4-H with paving the way to earning two degrees. UT Extension, an entity of the UT Institute of Agriculture, administers Tennessee’s 4-H program.
Following college, McQueen returned to 4-H in 1975, beginning her career and her lifelong journey at the Sequatchie County UT Extension office in rural Southeast Tennessee. After two years, she transitioned to the statewide 4-H office Knoxville as a 4-H specialist, coordinating an estimated 10,000 volunteers each year across Tennessee and training agents to work with volunteers.
While working at UT, McQueen continued to live and work at the Henderson family farm where she grew up. After retiring from her job with 4-H in 2001, she married longtime family friend Hugh McQueen and moved all the way to Loudon, Tennessee, five miles down the road. There, she and her husband also worked the Mason McQueen farm. Hugh McQueen died in 2010.
In recent years, McQueen extended her 4-H ties still further, committing part of her estate to the UT Foundation to benefit both the Lone Oaks Farm 4-H Camp and Conference Center in West Tennessee and 4-H volunteer development. She is currently president of the Tennessee 4-H Foundation, a board member of Tennessee 4-H Alumni and a member of the UTIA Advancement Board.
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.