The Illinois 4-H Foundation of the University of Illinois Extension named Ray and Ellen Hankes of Gibson City, Illinois, as joint recipients of a 2011 4-H Alumni Award. This is the first time that the award has been presented to a couple. The award was presented at the annual ACES College Connection event on November 18 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana.
Ray and Ellen have been heavily involved with 4-H for many years, serving as club leaders, coaching livestock teams, judging at contests and fairs, hosting workshops, providing 4-H opportunities to non-farming families, and furthering community awareness of 4-H. Ray, who recently retired from Tyson Foods, has a Ph.D. in meat science and ruminant nutrition from the University of Illinois. He has served as president of the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board. Ellen is a former high school home economics teacher who decided to become active in pork producer activities. She was the first woman president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association and was involved in the discussion that led to the Livestock Facilities Act. The couple owned a farm for 25 years, but Ray eventually moved into business consulting while Ellen took a position as coordinator for the Illinois Coalition for Animal Agriculture. Both Ray and Ellen have received numerous awards for their industry service.