Wakelin ‘Ranger Mac’ McNeel
Inducted November 3, 1995
Wakelin McNeel directed the state of Wisconsin 4-H forestry and conservation activities for more than 40 years. He supervised the distribution of over one million trees in the state and helped build Upham Woods into a nationally acclaimed 4-H camp. His Junior Forest Ranger Program earned him the name of “Ranger Mac” and his radio show, “A Field with Ranger Mac” featured on Wisconsin Public Radio, merited him the George Foster Peabody award for the best educational program in the nation. He is credited with awakening thousands of youngsters, students and citizens to the glories and rewards of living on harmony with nature.
More about Wakelin McNeel:
Wakelin McNeel was born in Kilbourn, Wisconsin in 1884. After graduation from Lawrence College he taught school in Tomah and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. At 22 years of age he became the youngest school superintendent in the state. He left his position as superintendent to study at the Biltmore School of Forestry and at schools in Germany.
For many years Ranger Mac, as he was known, directed state 4-H forestry and conservation activities and was one of the leaders in the school forest movement. In one year he supervised the distribution of over one million trees to 4-H members and vocational agriculture students. He helped build Upham Woods into one of the outstanding 4-H camps in the nation.
On May 9, 1958, a special tree was dedicated to McNeel in the state’s original school forest at Laona as part of its 30th year celebration. Mr. McNeel worked at the forest in 1928.
For many years Wakelin McNeel conducted a Junior Forest Ranger Program with thousands of young Wisconsin participants. His work with this program earned him the name of ‘”Ranger Mac” and Wisconsin Public Radio featured McNeel in a special radio show called, Afield with Ranger Mac. He received many citations and awards for his radio work, among them the George Foster Peabody award for the best educational program in the nation.
McNeel’s philosophy of education is best summarized in his own words. He said, “We must make good citizens of young lives. That seems to be the greatest need, and the obvious hope of the world. We must see that young strength and faith of a new generation are given the fullest opportunity. We must see that this new generation is inspired by faith to use its young strength. If youth can learn that nothing good is ever lost, that nothing can ever happen, however portentous, to stop a good deed from sending out its helpful, hope giving rays, then we have done something to give direction and purpose to their minds in these troubled times.”