About the 4-H Center 2017-09-19T18:36:59+00:00

History of the Skelton 4-H Center


The W. E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center at Smith Mountain Lake has been serving youth since 1966. Originally named the  West Central 4-H Educational Center, there were limited facilities in the early days–a far cry from the spacious and modern meeting, lodging, educational, and recreational facilities that encompass the Center’s grounds today. Through the various transformations, updated facilities, and re-naming ceremonies, one thing remains true: the 4-H Center’s focus is providing a safe, child friendly facility which is capable of providing high quality programs for youth from throughout our region and beyond. Over the past 50 years the Skelton 4-H Center has done this in serving more than 160,000 youth and 260,000 other clients!

On September 9th, 2004, the Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Conference Center was re-named in a dedication ceremony to Dr. William E. Skelton for his many years of service and commitment to the youth from our region. Dr. Skelton served on the 4-H Center’s Board of Directors for 37 years and provided leadership not only to this organization but also served as the Director of Virginia Cooperative Extension and Dean of Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech before his passing in 2008.

Since 2004 the 4-H Center has experienced a tremendous surge of growth in new and renovated facilities and program areas. This includes the Willard Amphitheatre, Friendship Retirement Community Wellness Center, The John G. Rocovich, Jr. Regional Shooting Sports Complex, Harris Flag Plaza, Hahn Welcome Center, renovated Smith Central Activities Building, Smith Youth Golf Training Complex, new climbing wall, and renovated staff lodge. The Center continues to improve and evolve to meet the needs of the youth of the region.

About Dr. W.E. Skelton

In 1928, Dr. William E. Skelton became a member of 4-H, initiating 76 years of volunteer service and leadership within the youth education program. Following graduation from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1940 with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, Dr. Skelton became a 4-H Extension Agent and served in a total of 10 counties as an employee of Virginia Cooperative Extension. During his time at Virginia Tech, Dr. Skelton served as Director of 4-H programs and Director of the Cooperative Extension Service. The Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Conference Center and five other Virginia 4-H Centers were established under his leadership. He was appointed Dean of the Extension Division in 1965. Following his retirement in 1979, Dr. Skelton was conferred with the honorary title of Dean Emeritus of Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Dr. Skelton remained committed to 4-H, volunteering and aiding in the development of this 4-H Center and its facilities and programs until his passing in 2008. For 37 years, he served as volunteer and Board Member of the Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Educational Conference Center, a campus which was renamed in his honor in 2004.

Celebrating 50 Years of Service

In 1964, a generous land donation from Appalachian Power launched what has become one of the nation’s premier 4-H centers. Over the past 50 years, the center has grown from a single pole barn building to a campus of 30 buildings on 120 acres. More than 160,000 4-H campers and 255,000 other youth and adult participants have had the opportunity to attend programs and events at the center.

Through generous contributions from many supporters, the center continues to grow as facilities are added and upgraded. State-of-the-art equipment and technology is being implemented to provide the best learning tools for our youth.
We thank you for joining us as we recognize those that envisioned and shaped our success over the past 50 years, and look forward to continuing to grow and improve over the next 50 years…

Keep an eye out for more information to come!

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