R. Nadine Hackler made a significant impact on the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program through providing leadership for decades to 4-H projects, activities and events in the clothing and textile project areas.
Hackler grew up in rural Oklahoma and was involved with 4-H at her school. “When I was a 4-H’er I did most of my work in food and nutrition. When I was in 4-H, you did not select projects. You were in a certain year level and whatever was in that level you had to do,” she said.
She soon became a champion level cake maker, and would create angel food cakes with thirteen egg whites, all of them whipped by hand. Projects available to her were mainly home economics and agriculture, and Hackler recalls going to 4-H Roundup to present a 4-H presentation and to see the Kansas City Royals. She was involved in the Dress Revue.
She became the specialist for consumer education of clothing and textile furnishings at the University of Florida in 1969. She served in this capacity for five years, and then she was named the clothing and textiles specialist.
When asked what young people learn by participating in clothing construction projects, Hackler said decision-making, mathematics skills, and planning. She added, “You become a better shopper because you learn the standards for what’s considered quality and it’s not price. Price and quality don’t go hand in hand.”
She began the Fashions by Floridians show at the Florida State Fair in the 1980s. She also served on the National 4-H Fashion Revue committee in the late 1970s and chaired the event in the mid-1990s.
From 1990-1997, she was a driving force behind the statewide 4-H Clothing Encounters camp, which focused on care, consumer issues, construction, presentation, and self-esteem building. There was no budget for the camp, and Hackler worked to get equipment loaned and materials donated.
Hackler co-authored the curriculum for the camp, and wrote sixteen project books, in addition to support materials, loan kits for county 4-H agents, and presentations. She was well-known for her work training 4-H agents and master clothing volunteers.
“Nadine was well-known for her in-depth training materials, program efforts, professionalism, and attention to detail,” said Dot Welch and Mary Beth Salisbury. “When one attended her trainings, you were sure to be able to return to the county and with very little effort duplicate her program.”
When asked how she produced trainings at this quality level, Hackler said, “You have to remember what it is when someone doesn’t know anything. So you have to make sure that it’s simple enough with few words and good illustrations and in a logical sequence, so they can succeed in learning.”
“Start with something simple so they can see, before moving on to the more difficult,” said Hackler. “So basically when I would be preparing materials – I would write a lot of bullets – and in construction – everything was based on what is the standard. I didn’t care how you got there so long as you got the standard.”
As to the influence 4-H made on her life, Hackler said, "I am what I am in my life because of the influence of 4-H. The leadership, skills and the ability to work with people are things that I learned early in life while involved in the 4-H program. I believe that 4-H has molded me into the person I am today."
She was well known for her work with training materials, programming, and attention to detail. She was prolific in writing materials, authoring more than 16 projects books, developing loan kits and support materials that are adaptable for youth and adult audiences.
In 1984, she was named outstanding specialist for her support for the 4-H program. In 1990, she received the Excellence in Team Programming, and the distinguished service awards from the Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents and the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents. In 1995, she was the recipient of NAE4-HA’s twenty-five year award. She was the recipient of the 4-H literature award, the communicator award, and the Search for Program Excellence at the state and national levels.
In July 1997, she was appointed the acting assistant dean for 4-H programs, and she served in that capacity until her retirement in January 1998.
Hackler remains active as a volunteer with her church, where she served as the lead kindergarten teachers for nearly three decades. She currently serves as a volunteer for the Mothers of Pre-Schoolers program, and is involved with a ministry that provides food to the homeless.