Washington 4-H honors Harry Burcalow’s three decades of distinguished service

Burcalow, surrounded by friends and family, accepts a personalized birdhouse gift in an awards ceremony.
Washington State 4-H Hall of Famer Harry Burcalow accepts a personalized gift, as he is honored May 9 with the Washington State 4-H’s Tom Quann Distinguished Service Award.

Helping 4-H youth of Washington thrive through his generosity and service, Harry Burcalow, former associate director of Washington State University Extension and a Washington State 4-H Hall of Famer, was honored this month for more than 30 years of 4-H support.

Burcalow, a Spokane resident, received Washington State 4-H’s Tom Quann Distinguished Service Award at a May 9 ceremony at WSU Spokane.

Retired from WSU in 1998, Burcalow is the former associate dean of the WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics, now CAHNRS, and associate director of WSU Cooperative Extension, where he led agriculture and natural resource programs across the state.

A strong supporter of Washington 4-H programs, he personally founded the Harry Burcalow Endowment for Innovative Grants, funding projects and programs that help 4-H youth serve their communities while learning about leadership, decision making, responsibility, and healthy lifestyle choices.

Burcalow served on the Washington State 4-H Foundation Board. He was one of the initial 100 members to be inducted into the Washington State 4-H Hall of Fame.

Before coming to work at WSU in 1985, the Wisconsin native was a 21-year member of the extension faculty at the University of Minnesota.

Colleagues recalled him as an honest, ethical and loyal Coug, as well as a good listener who always sought the positive side in others.

In retirement, Burcalow became involved with the United Methodist Church in his Spokane community, helping serve food at Shalom Ministries and St. Ann’s Catholic Church for the homeless community in Spokane.

He also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, and as a disaster assistance employee with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, helping respond to disasters including the September 11 terrorist attack in New York City, the 2001 Nisqually quake, and Hurricane Katrina.

Burcalow credited his many colleagues, and thanked his wife, Janet, for her support for more than six decades.

“This award is the capstone of a career I never imagined, growing up on a small dairy farm in northern Wisconsin,” he said. “It helped me reflect on my life: my years as a 4-H member, my parents who were both 4-H leaders, my siblings who were all involved in 4-H, and my years in Extension in both Minnesota and Washington state.

“It also brought back memories of great Extension colleagues in both states, 4-H’ers and their families that I’ve worked with, and activities like county and state fairs and club tours where I met 4-H members and saw their projects,” Burcalow added.

The Distinguished Service Award is named for Thomas R. Quann, a WSU College of Agriculture alumnus who devoted his career to Extension, and was a major supporter of Washington 4-H. Quann passed away in 2013.

“Tom was a great supporter of 4-H,” said Burcalow. “In Extension, he always spoke up for 4-H, and championed efforts to fund great staff and programs. It’s an unexpected honor for me to receive this Distinguished Service Award named for him.”

  • 4-H depends on involvement and donations to help Washington youth from all walks of life succeed. Learn more and get involved with Washington State 4-H here.