04 2018 (April)

Long-time 4-H foundation chair oversaw 10-fold asset growth

Bob Sexton, relaxing in a chair.
Bob Sexton

The board chair who oversaw a ten-fold growth of Wyoming State 4-H Foundation assets has stepped aside.

“Probably a case of old age,” says Bob Sexton, 89, of Laramie, and chuckles. Sexton served as board chair for 22 years. Greg Schamber of Pinedale is the new chair.

The non-profit is the only non-government organization that financially supports 4-H programs and education in Wyoming. Donations provide scholarships for secondary education in Wyoming schools and money to pay for 4-H activities and events. More about the foundation is at www.wyoming4h.org/4hfoundation.

There are more than 7,000 Wyoming 4-H’ers.

State 4-H Program director Johnathan Despain says Sexton has been a tireless advocate for 4-H, and his insights and dedication continue to make a difference on the board and in 4-H.

“His passion for making a difference in the lives of Wyoming’s youths is extremely high whether it be through his personal love of shooting sports and the outdoors or through looking for financial support to grow the program,” notes Despain.

A foundation snapshot shows when Sexton began as chair:

  • Foundation assets – $500,000
  • Counties – Three with $22,000 in foundation
  • Yearly financial support to 4-H’ers – $150,000

And now:

  • Foundation assets – $5 million
  • Counties – 21 with $1.3 million in foundation
  • Yearly financial support to 4-H’ers – $820,000

Counties have endowment funds – permanent funds earning interest – and also savings accounts used only for 4-H members and activities in that county, notes Steve Mack, foundation director.

Sexton says he can’t remember who asked if he wanted to join the board those years ago. He said the board didn’t draw much interest.

“But it became obvious to me the board was making some mistakes as far as investing money,” he says.

He served in an advisory capacity at first and then was asked to become a board member then chair.

“It’s one of those things that seem like a lifetime job,” he says. “Nobody else on the board seemed really anxious to take on being the board chair.”

He says having business people with an interest in 4-H on the board contributed to success and deflects most of the praise about the increase in assets.

“I would think I had something to do with that, but we also received some very good donations to the foundation, and we have been pretty good with our investments,” he says. “I can tell you when I first became involved with the foundation there were times we had to give our bookkeeper a vacation without pay because we couldn’t afford to pay her. We’ve come a long way.”

Sexton grew up on a sheep and cattle ranch in California and moved to Laramie for relief from asthma (he has since had no effects). He joined the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in 1963 as a wildlife enforcement specialist and retired in 1985.

He was never in 4-H but volunteered as a shooting program instructor about the time he joined the board.

“We found if we scheduled something that involved shooting, we raised more money than anything else we did,” he says. “I was a competitive shooter and loved to shoot, and I enjoyed teaching the kids how to shoot and the safety and recreational aspect of it.”

After all the years and despite the foundation’s financial success, he says he got to the point he didn’t do well with numbers.

He is a long-time member of a local investment club and said he began having difficulty. “I used to work with numbers a lot, and math was my favorite subject in school,” he says. “I was making so many mistakes it was bothering me.”

Despain says those in Wyoming 4-H are grateful for his leadership and look forward to Sexton and the rest of the board providing funding for the sustainability and growth of 4-H opportunities.

“We have a long way to go toward our goal of sustainability, but we’ve come a long way with Bob Sexton at the helm of the Wyoming State 4-H Foundation,” says Despain.

Schamber says he is committed to the continued growth of the foundation.

“It is our hope to continue to build assets within the foundation to a point our interest earnings provide adequate annual funds for the many things we already do while still allowing for expansion of our support to Wyoming 4-H,” Schamber says.