The legacy and impact of the late Mary Jo Brinkmann is carried on today through a scholarship given in her honor by her husband Bob Brinkmann. Since 2001, the scholarship has been awarded at every 4-H Roundup, and so far 17 people have been on the receiving end.
Mary Jo Brinkmann grew up on a farm right outside of Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
Before her passing in October of 2000, Mary Jo served as an Extension agent for over 30 years.
The very first recipient of the scholarship was Amy Willis, who is now an Extension Agent II in Rutherford County. Willis’ history with Mary Jo was long, and winning the scholarship meant a lot to her because of their close relationship.
“Mrs. Brinkmann, or Mrs. Mary Jo, was a part of my life from the very beginning. She came to Coffee County in the 1970s and was my Daddy’s 4-H agent,” said Willis.
The scholarship was created to honor those who had the same dedication and hardworking nature as Mary Jo. Her husband, Bob Brinkmann, never participated in 4-H himself but saw how much the program meant to Mary Jo and the impact it had on her life, so, after her passing, he created the scholarship to carry on her legacy.
“I have often told people that I married into 4-H,” said Brinkmann.
Martin Dickey, who received the scholarship for his Engineering/Safety Science Project, credits the funds to helping him realize his dream and go to college.
“Receiving the scholarship was a great honor and helped enable me to attend LeTorneau University where I am now a junior studying Materials Joining Engineering,” said Dickey.
Those who think back on Mary Jo think of her fondly.
“She would do anything she could to help her 4-H’ers succeed,” said Willis. “She was a master at pushing us to do our best and providing loving – yet stern – criticism when she felt that we haven’t fulfilled our potential. Mrs. Mary Jo played an integral part in shaping me into the person I am today.”
Brinkmann agrees with the sentiment that his late wife only wanted to see her students succeed.
“Mary Jo enjoyed seeing a child as a fourth grader grow up to be a young man or young lady as they finished high school and went on with their lives,” explained Brinkmann.
“Some went on to college or to service and some went to trade school and work. This is the reason that I give the scholarship – to remember and reward the 4-H’er for their hard work.”