Planned gift creates leadership development pathway
Dick McFarland with the 2016 Illinois 4-H Key Award recipients
Dick McFarland (far right) with the 2016 Illinois 4-H Key Award recipients
Kim Kidwell
February 21, 2018

When it comes to professional achievement, H. Richard “Dick” McFarland believed that character and leadership development were just as valuable as formalized classroom education. Not only did he model entrepreneurial success, but he also made sure that Illinois youth and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) students were afforded opportunities to build a similar path. Two gifts provided by McFarland in his estate will continue to perpetuate that investment in young people.

McFarland passed away in June 2017 at his home in Indiana. Originally from Hoopeston, Illinois, Dick earned a degree in agriculture from the University of Illinois in 1952. After serving in the Korean War, he built an accomplished career working for several food companies and then starting his own company. McFarland Foods Corporation was a thriving company, operating as many as 45 fast food restaurants in three states.

Dick’s estate included a $2-million unrestricted gift to Illinois Extension 4-H Youth Development and a similar $2-million gift to the University of Illinois College of ACES.

Dick and Sally McFarland were loyal benefactors of the University of Illinois. “They were dedicated to creating opportunities for young people to pursue an education at U of I through scholarship funding,” says Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES. “They also made tremendous contributions to infrastructure in the ACES corridor to support student learning.” Students, alumni, faculty, and staff access the McFarland Student and Alumni Center located in the ACES Library, Information, and Alumni Center each day. The McFarland Bell Tower has become an iconic landmark on the ACES quad.

“McFarland’s estate gift is the ultimate reflection of their commitment to ensuring a brilliant future for agricultural, consumer and environmental sciences,” Kidwell says. “This endowment will create transformative opportunities into perpetuity for developing future leaders in these disciplines.”

The McFarlands’ dedication to the Illinois 4-H program was similar in longevity. “Dick and Sally invested in Illinois 4-H educational and recognition programs, Illinois 4-H Key Award and college scholarships for 4-H members,” says Lisa Diaz, U of I Extension assistant dean and 4-H director. “Dick enjoyed meeting Key Award and scholarship recipients each year and seeing the promise of these leaders of tomorrow.” 

The structure of the McFarland’s planned gift supporting both Illinois 4-H and the College of ACES creates a pathway for personal and professional development for young leaders, Kidwell says. The college plans to direct income from the gift to the new ACES Leadership Academy.

“A spirit of leadership and service are sparked in 4-H,” Kidwell explains. “Then, these young people come to the College of ACES where we further prepare them to be the next generation of experts and change leaders to positively influence their disciplines, their communities, and the world. They may even go on to become accomplished entrepreneurs like Dick.”

The $2-million endowment for 4-H will provide flexible funding for perpetuity, Diaz says. “This ongoing funding will allow the Illinois 4-H program to be nimble in responding to financial needs throughout the state, expanding in to new and changing areas of interest related to youth development and career preparedness,” she says.

Angie Barnard, executive director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation, says Dick’s generous gift is the largest in history to the Illinois 4-H program. “His legacy will have positive impacts on young people for generations,” she says.