Dr. Samuel M. Gwinn
Dr. Samuel M. Gwinn, age 92, of Newark, DE, renowned former director of the Delaware Cooperative Extension at the University of Delaware and former state director of 4-H, passed away on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. A leading figure in the Delaware agricultural community for several decades, Dr. Gwinn was responsible for the great variety of progressive initiatives that produced the state’s modern 4-H and extension programs.
Born on September 9, 1919, in Meadowbridge, WV, son of the late James Robert Gwinn and Arminda Bowls Gwinn, Dr. Gwinn began his lifelong interest in agriculture and animal husbandry on his family’s 200-acre farm in Lockbridge, WV. He joined the local 4-H at the age of 10 and was active in 4-H programs throughout his youth. After serving his country proudly in General Patton’s famed Third Army during World War II and receiving a Purple Heart, he returned to his agricultural studies, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Virginia University.
In 1948, he accepted a position as a Sussex County (DE) Extension agent. He was appointed Delaware’s 4-H director in 1951 and–with his characteristic diligence, imagination, and good humor–assumed the immense task of administering the entire operation of the state 4-H program.
In 1955, he took a sabbatical leave to study for his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Gwinn then returned to Delaware in 1957 and continued to serve as state 4-H director until 1960. He later became the director of the Cooperative Extension of the University of Delaware, a position he held for 22 years before retiring in 1984.
Among his many impressive accomplishments in a highly successful career of promoting youth leadership, Dr. Gwinn was most proud of his work in opening the 4-H overnight camp at Camp Barnes in the Assawoman Bay Wildlife Area. He also helped establish the Delaware 4-H Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the organization that helps pay for many special programs, including sponsoring children who couldn’t otherwise afford to participate in 4-H activities. Known with great fondness as “Mr. 4-H” and “Dean of Extension,” Dr. Gwinn was named to the 4-H National Hall of Fame in 2003, the first Delawarean ever to be so honored. At the time of his award, he modestly noted, “It’s the best honor I ever got. I never expected this. I spent my life working with people, and I could not have chosen a more rewarding vocation.”
In his rare leisure hours, Dr. Gwinn enjoyed tending the beautiful yard around his home, traveling, and cheering for his favorite athletic teams, especially University of Delaware football. He will be lovingly remembered as a true gentleman and a charming jokester with a great sense humor, whose happiest times were spent in good conversation and good company. A devoted family man above all else, he particularly delighted in spending time with his grandchildren.
Dr. Gwinn is survived by his devoted wife of 63 years, Dorothy Stanley Gwinn, whom he met at a 4-H camp in West Virginia; his son, Stanley M. Gwinn and his wife, Megan, of Newark, DE; and grandchildren, Jessica A. Gwinn and Ryan S. Gwinn of Pike Creek, DE. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Lonzo, Aubrey, Lester, Flonzie, Henry, and Thomas, and by his sisters, Icie and Dora.
A funeral service will be held at 12 noon on Saturday, April 14, 2012, at the Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark, DE, where visitation will begin at 11 am. A committal service will be held at 10 am on Tuesday, April 17, 2012, at the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 2465 Chesapeake City Road, Bear, DE.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Dr. Gwinn may be made to the Delaware 4-H Foundation, 113 Townsend Hall, 531 S. College Avenue, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 (delaware4hfoundation.org / 302-831-2509).