Wednesday night at the Indiana FFA State Convention Steve Hickey, retiring from FFA in August this year, was honored with the FFA VIP Award. Then Indiana Governor Mike Pence sent the Indiana State Department of Agriculture director Ted McKinney to deliver a real surprise.
“Now therefore, recognizing his greatness,” read the governor’s inscription on the award, “and desiring to avail myself of his counsel, I do hereby appoint him a chieftain upon my staff with the rank and title of Sagamore of the Wabash.”
McKinney himself had earlier been handed a 2015 Honorary Degree from FFA.
“I had a wonderful career teaching young people out at Shenandoah High School in that FFA program,” he told HAT. “This has been a far better 5 year mission field is what I’ve called it, than I ever dreamed it’d be. I really didn’t know if I’d like it. I just knew I saw a lot of things that I thought I could help members and advisors and help move Indiana FFA forward maybe.”
Move them forward he has. State membership has grown from 9,000 to now over 11,000.
“It is the fastest growth. We have been jumping at roughly 600 a year and it’s just been a fun time to be around Indiana agriculture and Indiana FFA. We’ve got great kids.”
Hickey has spent his adult life mentoring those great kids, and Wednesday night was his night to receive the accolades, including those of Director McKinney.
“This man is an icon. His work at Shenandoah stands every test of time. I mean national winners of all sorts, not to mention state, district, and so forth, and some of the finest people you’ll meet coming out of his program. So it is entirely appropriate that we lift him up and celebrate all his accomplishments. I hate to see the man go.
Hickey will be succeeded by his assistant for the last year and a half, Tami Neighbors.