School: Neillsville - Mills Family Starts Scholarship (2012)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Perkins, Mills, Strobush, Ameche, Engle

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 7/04/2012

Family Starts Scholarship in Name of Former NHS Ag Teacher (Perkins – 2012)

Family Starts Scholarship in Name of Former NHS Ag Teacher

Kaye Mills (l) and Katrina Strobush, winner of the inaugural Gary L. Mills Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship was created in honor of former Neillsville High School agriculture teacher John Perkins. (Contributed Photo)

The family of a former Neillsville resident has created a new scholarship opportunity for graduating Neillsville High School seniors in honor of former NHS Agriculture teacher John Perkins.

The inaugural Gary L. Mills Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Katrina Strobush, who will be attending UW-Madison this fall.

Mills, who passed away in 2009, grew up on a dairy farm in Neillsville. Perkins had a large impact on Mills, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in agricultural economics, a life-changing experience. He later became an assistant vice president with Cargill, Inc. and retired as vice president of Bartlett Grain in Kansas City.

Perkins began teaching agriculture at NHS in 1929 and initiated the Neillsville FFA Chapter a year later. He oversaw the growth of the local chapter during a time of numerous new developments in the farming industry. Perkins retired in 1964. At the time, he held the longest term of service of any agriculture teacher in the state.

In honor of the scholarship and the positive impact of teachers like John Perkins, the Mills family shared the following letter Gary wrote to Perkins on his 93rd birthday.

Dear Mr. Perkins,

Best wishes to you on your 93rd Birthday Celebration.

Kaye and I were thrilled and excited about our visit with you and Mrs. Perkins on October 8th. The two of you still make a terrific team and both of you are so positive and spirited.

I have so many very fond memories of you. It is easy to recall them because you had the most positive impact on my life of any single person whom I have encountered. It was you who started me on a journey down the road of life that never would have happened in the exciting fashion that it did except for your intervention. You were always dressed in a tie and vest standing in the front of the class, with a no nonsense look on your face. Woe to the student who was unwilling to accept your ideas of proper conduct in the classroom.

You were noted for your successes in the County and State Crop Judging Contests. Nothing was left to chance, as we had frequent drills on plant recognition and ranking of the various grain samples.

I remember with great interest and excitement our trip to Chicago to see the Livestock Show, going to the Chicago Museums and staying in the YMCA. I had never seen a black person prior to that trip. What an experience for a young and naïve farm boy. It was just another example of your efforts to broaden the experiences of farm children. As well, I also recollect the trip to the University in Madison. We were fortunate enough to see the Penn State Nittary Lions play at Camp Randall. Alan Ameche was playing for Wisconsin and Penn State was coached by the great Rip Engle. I can still visualize the running of Alan Ameche. It was an unbelievable thrill for a farm kid who couldn’t even conceptualize such an event.

I am also reminded of the Saturday speech practices at your home in preparation for the Clark County Speech Contests. Mrs. Perkins was always there with her warm, cheerful, welcoming “Hi.” As I recall we did have some successes as I came across a trophy from one of those contests a couple of years ago. This was yet another example of your extra effort to be of service. The positive impact on the confidence of this farm kid was immeasurable!

You worked hard to change the economic situation of farm families through the DHIA Testing Program and the Purebred Bull Project. I bought my bull for $135, which at that time seemed like a fortune. The combination of these projects and improved rations brought about a fabulous improvement in the production of our home herd.

The one thing I remember most vividly, often and with great fondness, is the part you played in getting me to go to college. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the picture of that day as clear as if it were happening this very instant. I recall you driving into the driveway in your Ford and the beige hat you were wearing. I know exactly what we were doing and where my parents were standing. I’ll never forget your statement. “How would you like to go to college, I can get you a scholarship.” It wasn’t a large scholarship, but it was enough to get me to start college and that’s all it took.

And that’s not all – after my mother and I returned from Madison, where I secured a place to live, you took me out to lunch. You explained to me, in detailed fashion, how I needed to study in college. I followed your advice and even though I lacked many of the preparatory classes, I was able to complete all the work in a very successful manner. You must have recognized something in me that was significantly worthy, and I eternally grateful to you!

So, as you celebrate your 93rd birthday, I want to be certain you know what a positive influence you have been in my life. A tip of the hat to you, Happy Birthday! And well-done John Perkins!

Kindest personal regards
Gary Mills
Class of 1955




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