South Dakota FFA Foundation establishes Ernie Wingen Memorial Endowment

The South Dakota FFA Foundation is proud to have established the Ernie Wingen Memorial Endowment, in honor of the past high school agriculture education instructor who passed away in 2011. His son, Pat Wingen and former FFA student, Fred DeRouchey made the initial donation to establish the fund. Funds will be used to provide a yearly scholarship to a high school graduate who is an FFA member pursuing a degree in agriculture at South Dakota State University, with preference given to Hoven and Potter County FFA members.

Ernie became an ag teacher in 1948, teaching two years in Newell, South Dakota; one in Onida, South Dakota; and then Hoven, South Dakota, where he taught 26 years. He spent summers visiting his FFA student’s farms and their projects, in addition to pursuing his master’s in agricultural education, which he received in 1957. Under Wingen’s leadership, the Hoven Future Farmers of America blossomed. In 1965, the chapter’s Farm Safety program was rated nationally and by 1976 was one of the top 40 chapters in the nation. In 1970, the chapter received its first national award for total chapter activities, and by 1975 was rated in the top 40 chapters in the nation in this area as well. During this period, Hoven FFA had 30 members who received the State Farmer Degree, four state FFA officers, eight state proficiency winners, three national judging teams and had many other outstanding judging teams. He always credited his students. When Ernie left Hoven in 1977 to become Vo-Ag teacher and FFA Advisor in Blue Earth, Minnesota, a survey showed that 44 percent of the farmers in the immediate Hoven area were former students of Wingen.

In 1970, Ernie was recognized by the SDSU Agricultural Education Club as the Outstanding Teacher in South Dakota. He was honored to receive the Honorary American Farmer Degree in 1975. He served as president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer of the South Dakota Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association.

Ernie retired from teaching in 1983. At that time, he reflected on his teaching career and his occupational objective: “To be affiliated with agriculture and its continual improvement. Having been in the agricultural field for 35 years, my experience and ability allowed me to suggest interesting and creative methods in, and providing leadership for, this particular field, whether it be in agricultural education or in any other field related to agriculture.”

After his death, many former students wrote letters to his family expressing their appreciation for Ernie’s influence on their lives. One letter said, “I will never forget the values laid down by the thin man from South Dakota who often wore the light blue FFA shirt to our monthly chapter meetings in the ag room. Ernie’s place as advisor was by the owl, and his life represented in his spoken part of each opening ceremony. ‘Being older than the rest of you, I am asked to advise you from time to time as the need arises. I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom’… I know that it was.” Ernie’s favorite saying was “If you give a man bread, you nourish him once…If you teach him to plant, you nourish him for a lifetime.”

All contributions given to the Ernie Wingen Memorial Endowment will support South Dakota FFA members with scholarships, as designated by his son Pat Wingen and former FFA members who established the fund.

Those wishing to join the South Dakota FFA Foundation in honoring Mr. Wingen may send donations to the South Dakota FFA Foundation at 39393 133rd St., Bath, South Dakota 57427 or make a contribution online at For additional information, please contact Gerri Ann Eide at 605-765-4865.