New scholarship fund honors Washtenaw County 4-H volunteer

The Carl Lesser 4-H Ag Scholarship Fund will provide post-secondary scholarships to Michigan 4-H members pursuing agricultural-related degrees.

A photo of an older gentleman holding a picture of a young man holding a calf.
The Carl Lesser 4-H Ag Scholarship Fund was established by the Lesser family and from gifts in memory of Carl Lesser, a 4-H volunteer in Washtenaw County for many decades. Above is the Lesser family: Darrell and Susan Stoker and their young sons, Carl and Betty Lesser, and John Lesser.

The Carl Lesser 4-H Ag Scholarship Fund was established by the Lesser family and from gifts in memory of Carl Lesser, a 4-H volunteer in Washtenaw County for many decades.

“My dad had always been a part of 4-H,” said Susan Stoker, Lesser’s daughter and Washtenaw County 4-H alumna. “I think my dad would be honored that we chose to create this fund in his memory to help kids. I know 4-H and agriculture was his passion and hope to make it others’ passion as well. I’m hoping he’d be very pleased we are trying to help the 4-H and agricultural community.”

A Washtenaw County 4-H alumnus himself, Lesser graduated from Dexter High School as the valedictorian of his class in 1942. He attended MSU, where he honed his passion for agriculture and community service. Carl was active in farming and the Dexter community. He served on many committees and boards, including many years as a Washtenaw County 4-H volunteer leader and board member of the Washtenaw County Farm Council, which helped purchase the land where the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds/Saline Fairgrounds are located. Additionally, he was a Michigan Milk Producers Association member, Dexter Township trustee, Chelsea Fire Authority board member and Michigan Farm Bureau member. Lesser died Nov. 23 at age 98. He had lived in Dexter most of his life and was married to Elizabeth “Betty” Lesser for nearly 68 years until her death in 2018. They had two children, John and Susan, and two grandsons.

“He was a 4-H leader. He was very involved in local, state and nationwide – he had been to the state capitol, D.C. and was always involved in agriculture,” Stoker said. “His commitment to his community, his passion for agriculture, support for local farmers and his unwavering faith served as an inspiration to all who knew him.”

The fund remembers and honors Lesser’s 4-H legacy and will provide post-secondary scholarships to Michigan 4-H members who have been a 4-H member for at least one year and demonstrates:

  • Outstanding achievement in 4-H.
  • Exceptional character, shown through positive attitude and behavior.
  • A broad range of 4-H experiences and project involvement.
  • Leadership and citizenship contributions within and outside of 4-H.

Preference will be given to applicants who are pursuing post-secondary education in agricultural-related fields.

“We want to encourage and help young kids that want to become farmers and work in the agriculture industry. It is important to help grow the next generation of farmers – we all need to eat and to be clothed,” Stoker said.

The fund was established as a term endowment, but the family hopes to grow the fund to become a permanent endowment, providing scholarships every year for generations to come. A term endowment is a fund functioning as an endowment – the fund is invested, and the interest earnings are able to support 4-H programming; the corpus may be spent under certain circumstances. A permanent endowment is invested permanently, whereas the corpus is not spent and the interest earnings support 4-H programming.

Establishing an endowment is a way to invest in the future of 4-H. The donor’s gift continues to grow and support the program for generations to come.

Endowments provide a dependable and perpetual source of funding that, combined with other annual support, can help ensure that 4-H opportunities are available for all youth, especially those with financial barriers.

Make a gift to help grow the Carl Lesser 4-H Ag Scholarship Fund

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