In recognition of John G. Rocovich, Jr.’s decades of service to Virginia 4-H, he was honored with Virginia 4-H’s Emerald Clover Award at the recent Evening with 4-H event. The award is presented to an individual for outstanding and sustained commitment to the 4-H youth of Virginia.

“I’m grateful to Bill Skelton that he saw potential in me when I was a young kid and recruited me to join 4-H,” said Rocovich, who graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in business in 1966. “When I started practicing law in Roanoke, he again saw potential in me and an opportunity to make a difference. I’m flattered and grateful to receive this recognition because thousands of people work with 4-H to make a difference in the lives of our youth.”

Rocovich's service to the university and the commonwealth includes having served 12 years on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, including two years as rector. He also received Virginia Tech's Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

Rocovich’s involvement with Virginia 4-H began as a youth and continued throughout his career as a lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia, because of how the 4-H of positive youth development and character resonated.

“We’re all incredibly thankful for John’s dedication and service to Virginia 4-H throughout his life,” said Jeremy Johnson, state 4-H program leader. “John’s commitment to the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Center at Smith Mountain Lake is epitomized by his service as president of the center’s board for nearly 20 years and being a member of the board for decades. His work has been instrumental in ensuring that our renowned programming will help develop our youth into leaders for generations to come.”

Rocovich was just a child in Blacksburg, Virginia, when Skelton, his neighbor, wanted to expand 4-H’s reach in the mid-1950s. That expansion of Virginia 4-H’s programming resulted in the inaugural Blacksburg 4-H Club that met in Skelton’s basement.

Though the 4-H camps of today, such as the Smith Mountain Lake camp that bears Skelton’s name today, didn’t exist then, the Blacksburg 4-H Club of the ‘50s had outings to Claytor Lake in Pulaski, Virginia.

“The socialization and comradery of 4-H had a major impact on who I am today,” Rocovich said. “The mission of 4-H was very appealing and emphasized organization, character, and leadership - all traits that have been vital throughout my career.”

And he used those skills to help Virginia 4-H through the pandemic so the youth of today and tomorrow have access to life-changing programming and camp experiences. In 2020, the 4-H Blue Ribbon Fundraising Committee was formed to raise $4 million to ensure the 4-H Educational Centers could withstand the financial hardships of the pandemic and continue to be an irreplaceable community nexus for years to come.

“4-H’s positive message on youth development and character has resonated with me throughout my life,” Rocovich said. “Co-leading the Blue Ribbon Fundraising Committee with Justice Elizabeth McClanahan was an opportunity to pass along the positive youth development of 4-H to the younger generations and this was an opportunity for me to make a difference in the lives of our youth.”

People believe in the mission of Virginia 4-H, Rocovich said, and they are willing to support it because the best gift is skills that can last a lifetime.

“I was happy to have the opportunity to do that and to at least have a small part in the preservation of the 4-H camping program,” he said. “It makes a huge difference in the lives of the kids that attend each year.”

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