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Newsletter for Scouting Alumni association Affiliates

alumni alive! FALL 2015

What’s Inside Director’s Message.........................2 Alumni News.........................................4 Happenings..............................................6 Program...................................................8 Profiles.......................................................10

A Message From the Director When did George Dennis become an Eagle Scout? Here are a few clues: His favorite merit badge was Blacksmithing. His Eagle Scout letter was signed by James E. West, the BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive. And he went on to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. If you guessed 1930, you’re right. Mr. Dennis, who is now 101 years old, became an Eagle Scout 85 years ago. Looking back across the decades, he still remembers hiking with his buddies from Troop 2, attending summer camp at Camp Tuscazoar, and spending months sharpening his new blacksmithing skills. I recently read an article about Mr. Dennis in the Scouting Wire Alumni Edition for September 19, 2015. Imagine looking back on nearly 90 years of Scouting memories and reflecting on the importance of the journey you embarked on at age 12. Truth be told, Mr. Dennis’ blacksmithing skills didn’t help him much as an aerial photographer in the Navy or as a graphic artist for half a century. But the leadership skills and the values he learned in Scouting definitely did. As an adult, Mr. Dennis served as Scoutmaster of Troop 152 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, leading 150 boys on the same Scouting adventures he grew up loving. Later, he moved with his wife and two sons to Pompano Beach, Florida, where he volunteered with Troop 299. I’m guessing Mr. Dennis didn’t teach blacksmithing to the hundreds of Scouts he served during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Instead, he probably taught them equally impractical skills like building signaling towers, knowing like his Scoutmaster back in Troop 2, Mr. Star, that the real lessons he was teaching had nothing to do with clove hitches and square lashes. I have no doubt that many of Mr. Dennis’ Scouts went on to be Scout leaders themselves, teaching the same leadership skills and timeless values they had learned from him and he had learned from Mr. Star. Scouting works because youth learn by doing. Boy Scouts look at the world as a classroom with endless opportunities. The skills they develop are ones they can use every day, even if they never make another


horseshoe, build another signal tower, or (like many of today’s Scouts) conduct experiments on air and water pollution. Whatever your age, you can look back on your time in Scouting and see the difference the program has made in your life. Will you, like Mr. Dennis, pay the gift forward? Scouts and Scouters, the bar has been set; are you up for the challenge? More Reasons to Be a Scout Leader Reason #68: Rafting. It’s the adventure every boy dreams of: rafting down a rushing river. But before the adventure comes the preparation. Boys practice first aid, develop emergency plans, and review rules on whitewater rafting. More important, they develop courage and selfconfidence as they prepare for the challenge of a lifetime. Reason #70: Oceanography. Boy Scouts enjoy learning about our environment and its inhabitants. As they discover more about the world they live in, they develop an increased respect for its unique properties and resources. Boy Scouts learn that their choices every day affect the environment, for better or for worse.

Dustin Farris Director, Scouting Alumni Association


alumni news Learn to Reconnect Scouting Alumni with Your Council Conventional wisdom says that if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person. Better advice, however, might be to ask a busy person who believes in your cause. Scouting’s most committed volunteers and financial supporters are usually those who know its value firsthand, including Eagle Scouts, other former Scouts and Venturers, and parents who’ve seen the program’s positive impact on their children.

Best of all, the conference will take place at the Philmont Training Center, which has been the BSA’s national training center since 1950. Part of the sprawling Philmont Scout Ranch (the world’s largest youth camp), PTC offers participants large wall tents with cots and electricity (aka “canvas Hiltons”), private bathrooms, laundry facilities, a full-service dining hall, and free Wi-Fi. And you’re encouraged to bring your family. PTC provides family programs for children of all ages as well as spouses—everything from crafts and Western games to horseback riding and challenge courses. There’s also plenty of time for family hikes and other activities. The all-inclusive cost for conference participants is $530. The cost for family members ranges from $100 (for children ages 0-5) to $420 for teens in the Mountain Trek program.

The trick is finding and engaging these satisfied customers, which happens to be the focus of the Reconnecting and Engaging Scouting Alumni conference, to be held June 19-25, 2016, at the Philmont Training Center. For five days, you and other Scouting alumni will explore best practices to establish functioning council National Eagle Scout Association and Scouting Alumni Association committees and learn how to reach untapped Scouting alumni who have been identified during nationwide Eagle Scout searches. Leading the conference will be four facilitators with deep experience in alumni relations: Alumni Committee members Todd Plotner and Rick Bragga, Alumni Director Dustin Farris, and Associate Alumni Director Ryan Larson.

For more information on the conference and the Philmont Training Center, visit or call 575-376-2281.


Important Changes Affect NESA Scholarship Program

Frank Nash III, Greater St. Louis Area Council 2015 United Health Foundation Scholarship

its growing skills gap, the scholarships are now open to Eagle Scouts who plan to attend trade schools and other approved programs. (USA Today recently reported that 70 percent of home builders can’t find enough carpenters, while the American Welding Society projects a shortage of nearly 300,000 welding professionals by 2020.) In fact, about the only place Eagle Scouts can’t use the NESA scholarships is at America’s service academies, where the cost of attendance is already covered by U.S. taxpayers.

Trevor Case III, West Central Florida Council 2015 NESA STEM Scholarship

This year also marks an important change in the way the program is administered. Due to a growing number of applications—there were 9,748 applicants in 2014—the scholarship deadline is now Oct. 31, a couple of months earlier than before. As of midnight on Nov. 1, the online site for submitting applications will be locked.

For more than 30 years, the National Eagle Scout Association has offered scholarships to help its members pay for higher education. From humble beginnings in 1984, the NESA scholarship program has grown to offer roughly 100 scholarships per year worth as much as $50,000. The most prestigious of the awards are the $48,000 and $25,000 Mabel and Lawrence S. Cooke Eagle Scout Scholarships, begun in 1990, and the $50,000 NESA STEM Scholarship, begun in 2012. The STEM Scholarship goes to an Eagle Scout who plans to major in a science, technology, engineering, or math field. This year, the program is growing in two important ways. First, the value of the NESA Hall/McElwain merit scholarship has been increased from $1,000 to $5,000, an acknowledgement of the soaring costs of higher education. Second, in an effort to help America close

So who can apply? For NESA’s academic scholarships, Eagle Scouts must apply during their senior year in high school (or the following year if their Eagle board of review is held after Oct. 31). For NESA’s merit scholarships, Eagle Scouts may apply during their senior year and may reapply each year until their junior year in college. Applicants must be NESA members, although they can begin the application process before joining. For extensive information on the NESA scholarship program, visit To apply for a scholarship, visit


Happenings Unity and Diversity at the World Scout Jamboree awesome experience of living in a global village. Be committed to the bonds you have fostered, despite the geographical distances that separate us,” he said. “The 23rd World Scout Jamboree has been a great adventure. Let us continue our mission as Messengers of Peace and live as active global citizens.”

Having been involved in world Scouting for decades, Dan Ownby can usually identify Scout uniforms at a glance. But he was having trouble by the time the 2015 World Scout Jamboree drew to a close in August. After all, what do you make of a Scout from India who is decked out in a Russian uniform and wearing a Mexican sombrero while enjoying some Hungarian goulash?

While the World Jamboree participants are working to be good global citizens, Scouting officials in the United States, Canada, and Mexico will be busy planning for the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, to be held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. The three North American Scouting associations are cohosting the event, the first to be held in the United States since 1967. (Canada last hosted in 1983; Mexico has never hosted.) In addition to the cultural exchanges that are so much a part of the world jamboree experience, participants will also enjoy the Summit’s world-class adventure-sports facilities, which some international visitors have already enjoyed. “It’s an incredible site. They are wowed. They’ve never seen anything like it,” Ownby said.

This mixing and matching of clothing and cultures is a hallmark of all world Scouting events, but nothing rivals a world Scout jamboree, which brings together 33,000 Scouts from 150 or so countries for two weeks of learning and living together. “You get to meet people from all over, from places you’ve never even heard of,” said Ownby, a Houston resident who serves as one of the World Scout Committee’s two vice chairs. “You almost need to carry around a map of the world.”

Early indications are that the 24th World Scout Jamboree could be the biggest in history because of its location. Ownby said several large national Scout organizations have already said they can fill their contingents, no matter how big they are.

What initially strikes most Scouts is the diversity a jamboree represents, from the colorful uniforms to the unfamiliar national foods. A California Scout, Will Dull, told his local newspaper about his experience. “One time as I walked to the bathroom, I tried to count how many different languages I heard, and it was 12,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing that I heard 12 languages in just 100 feet.” But if the diversity is impressive, the unity is important. In fact, “wa”—Japanese for unity—was the theme of this year’s event. At the closing ceremony, Scott Teare, Secretary General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, issued a challenge. “When you return home, be united by this

There may also be a spinoff effect in the host countries. “Once a jamboree happens, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the national Scouting organization that hosted it,” Ownby said. “It stirs up excitement having a world jamboree.”


BSA Ends National Ban on Gay Leaders the Department of Defense’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy five years ago.) The resolution, which was approved by 79 percent of voting board members, reaffirms the right of chartered organizations to select their own adult leaders. Religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs, including those regarding matters of sexuality, as criteria for selecting adult leaders. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. The change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own. In a statement immediately after the vote, Gates said, “For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us. Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members. We deliver fun, character-building, leadership-developing experiences and adventures that young people and their parents love. We’ve been doing this for 105 years. I am confident we will continue to do so for another century.”

Two years after eliminating its ban on openly gay youth members, the BSA recently removed the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. The July 27 action by the National Executive Board, which took effect immediately, came two months after BSA President Dr. Robert M. Gates announced that he felt the existing ban was no longer sustainable. (Gates, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, is no stranger to the issue, having overseen the abolishment of


Program STEM Scouts® Offers a Laboratory for Learning One early adopter, Susan Martin, site resource coordinator at South Knoxville Elementary School, has called the program a success. “STEM Scouts seems to be the light switch for many of the kids, giving them hope and direction with their academics,” she said. “The big differentiator with this program is that it combines academics with character-building skills, all in a fun, active environment. This has been the key to help students understand that learning can be fun.”

To hear most experts tell it, the future belongs to the geeks. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 15 of the 20 fastestgrowing occupations require expertise in math and science. Down the street at the U.S. Department of Commerce, officials have predicted that careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will grow 17 percent from 2008 to 2018—nearly twice the growth rate of non-STEM careers.

While STEM Scouts may seem futuristic, it actually builds on a long history of Scouting innovation, according to Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh. “Our founders saw the future, that we would need to craft different models to bring in different components to enhance our core,” he said. Just two years after the BSA was founded, for example, Sea Scouting launched. Subsequent decades saw the development of the career-focused Exploring program and other programs for older youth.

Recognizing America’s need to turn out more STEM professionals, the BSA launched a pilot program last year called STEM Scouts. In the program, young people in grades 3 through 12 participate in weekly after-school meetings where they can get their hands dirty and their minds opened. Four- to six-week modules cover everything from building simple machines to programming elaborate mobile apps. And this being a Scouting program, there’s plenty of emphasis on the values found in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, which participants recite at each meeting. “The Boy Scouts has a history of trying to serve the nation’s needs. In World War I and II, the Boy Scouts gathered up things for the war effort. Right now, two National Academy of Sciences reports came out saying we have a critical shortage of qualified STEM professionals. This is a way to help in that need,” said Dr. Trent Nichols, the BSA’s national director of STEM programs. Nichols and fellow scientist and Scouter April McMillan devised the program in the Great Smoky Mountain Council (Knoxville, Tenn.). This fall, the pilot expanded to 12 more councils across the country.

Surbaugh said earlier concerns that STEM Scouts might pull boys away from traditional Scouting haven’t materialized. In fact, the first year of operation in Knoxville showed that STEM Scouts can reach a whole new market. “We only recruited the Cub Scout–age STEM kids after Cub Scout recruiting was completely done,” he said. “We got as many STEM Scouts as we got Cub Scouts. We didn’t drop one Cub Scout, and we doubled the number of kids we served.” What’s more, he said, each of those STEM Scouts was exposed to the Scouting program. “We now potentially have hundreds of thousands of kids who have had a good, positive experience with us,” he said. “How many of them might be attracted to Boy Scouting? We’re hoping a lot.”


Merit Badge Pamphlets Go High-Tech Some of the new videos were developed by BSA partners like the American Red Cross or by staff members from the BSA’s high-adventure bases. Others have been created by actual Scouts. “We’ll be encouraging members across the country to submit videos of their own that we can insert into the pamphlets,” Berger said. While the new pamphlets can be used in place of the paper versions, they don’t replace merit badge counselors. As they have for more than a century, Scouts will continue to meet with experts in badge topics to be tested on what they’ve learned. They just may have learned more ahead of those meetings, thanks to the new digital pamphlets.

If you want to understand just how central technology is to today’s Boy Scouts, consider this fact: Educational consultant Marc Prensky coined the term “digital native” in 2001, before most of today’s Scouts were even born.

To learn more about these new tools, visit At that site, you can even test-drive a sample chapter from the Cooking merit badge pamphlet.

Meeting the needs of digital natives is the goal of one of the BSA’s most ambitious publishing projects in years: creating a suite of interactive digital merit badge pamphlets that complement the more traditional (although now full-color) printed books. By the end of 2015, interactive digital pamphlets will be available for most of the merit badges required for Eagle Scout, as well as a group of tech-focused badges like Animation and Robotics. More will come in 2016 and beyond. Built on the popular Inkling platform, the new pamphlets— which cost the same as their print counterparts ($4.99 each)— include slide shows, animations, simulations, and videos. “I think the most exciting part is video,” said Eagle Scout Scott Berger, who heads the task force that’s creating the new pamphlets. “On demand, you have an example of what it is you’re trying to accomplish.” For example, instead of reading a page-long description of the elementary backstroke, you can watch a video of someone demonstrating the stroke.


profiles Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive Perez. (Gates, Perez, and Surbaugh make up the National Key 3.) He’s the Scouting equivalent of a chief executive officer; but chief visioning officer might be a better term, since he is already forming a vision for strengthening—and growing—the Scouting movement.

At August’s National Order of the Arrow Conference, new Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh told a young interviewer that his parents always wanted him to become a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. “Professional Boy Scouting was not ever in the mix,” he recalled. “My mom was always challenged because her friends would talk about their kids and their occupations and they’d get to her and she’d say, ‘Well, my son works for the Boy Scouts.’ She would hear, ‘Oh, that’s nice. He takes kids out camping? I didn’t know they paid people to do that.’” (It didn’t help when he later became Supreme Chief of the Fire, as the Order of the Arrow refers to Scout executives.)

In a recent interview, he said a big part of that vision involves recognizing that millennial parents think and act differently than members of his generation. For example, he explained, “Millennials want to do something that has a high social impact, but they also want to have a definitive time horizon.” Scout leaders can’t just say, “Join Scouting tonight, and in 12 to 15 years your son’s life will be transformed” (even though that’s true). Instead, they have to show how Scouting will benefit the boy—and his family—in three months and six months and a year. Surbaugh also knows that Scouting must speak a different language—sometimes literally—to connect with minority and immigrant families, many of whom don’t have a Scouting background. For example, he said, Latino and Asian parents tend to choose family-oriented activities, not those where you drop your kids off and pick them up two hours later. “There are probably some different things we need to do,” he said. “Will that prompt us to create a different program that appeals to people as an entry point? We’ll absolutely research those.”

Ironically, Surbaugh himself was contemplating law school before he served on camp staff and a professional Scouter convinced him to become a district executive instead. After earning a degree in youth agency administration from Salem College in West Virginia, he became a district Scout executive in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1984. He then served as a senior district executive and program director in Syracuse, N.Y.; director of field services, director of development, field director, and development director in Minneapolis, Minn.; and Scout executive in Sioux Falls, S.D., Appleton, Wis., and Pittsburgh, Pa. He joined the national staff in 2014 as the group director in charge of human relations, innovation, Exploring, and Learning for Life and became the BSA’s 13th Chief Scout Executive in September.

While the BSA has faced its share of challenges in recent years—mostly notably over membership and leadership standards—Surbaugh is excited about the future. “I think we are now able to get past the controversies and get back to our core mission,” he said. “If our mission is to serve more youth— to make Scouting more easily understandable and deliverable to today’s parents—then we have unbelievable potential. We have the strength with our volunteers and staff. We have the mission. Now we just have to execute. And I am very optimistic about our ability to do that.”

As the BSA’s top professional, Surbaugh supports the work of the National Executive Board and works directly with National President Dr. Robert M. Gates and National Commissioner Tico


Bray Barnes, Homeland Security Expert Somebody once asked Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell about the Scout motto—“Be prepared”—and what exactly Scouts should be prepared for. “Why, for any old thing,” he replied. But even with his military experience, B-P couldn’t have imagined needing to prepare for global terrorism, cyberattacks, and the countless other threats homeland security officials must worry about today. Fortunately, being prepared is second nature to the many Scouting alumni working in homeland security, including Bray Barnes, the founder and principal of consulting firm Security Evaluation and Solutions Group (SESG). In fact, the Scout motto is embedded in SESG’s tagline: “Because it’s not if, not when, but—when again! So be prepared.” “We have to be prepared; we have to be vigilant,” he says. “That’s what we were taught as Scouts.”

And through it all, Barnes has continued to give back to Scouting, serving on jamboree staffs, regional and national committees, and the National Advisory Council. Most recently, he has been heavily involved with Learning for Life, the BSA subsidiary that offers school-based character-education curricula and the career-oriented Exploring program. It is in Law Enforcement Exploring that Barnes’ vocation and avocation converge. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies across the country sponsor Explorer posts that give teens a taste of what public service careers can look like. “There’s actually an academy they can go to, so they really get a good taste of what it’s like to be in law enforcement if they want to continue on,” Barnes said. Many do, he said, including Julia Pierson, the former director of the U.S. Secret Service. “She credits her experience in Law Enforcement Exploring with her deciding to enter the Secret Service as a special agent,” he said. In 2004, Barnes was co-chairman of the first New Jersey State Police/Boy Scouts of America Camporee, which brought together more than 6,000 Scouts for a weekend of fun, competition, and learning. Subsequent camporees, staffed by the New Jersey State Troopers Eagle Scout Association, have attracted as many as 10,000 Scouts. Barnes has seen some of those who attended the first camporee return—but in different uniforms. “Those Scouts have now become state troopers,” Barnes said. “They chalk that up to the fact that they were at the camporee.”

After serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, he worked in law enforcement for 11 years before entering the legal profession. (He earned all his college degrees while working full time as a police officer.) A member of the bars for New Jersey, the District of Columbia, and several federal courts, he has served as an assistant county prosecutor and represented an array of lawenforcement groups. At the Department of Homeland Security, For his service to Scouting, Barnes has received numerous he directed the First Responder Program, chaired the DHS Law honors, including the Silver Buffalo and, this past June, the Enforcement Council and the DHS First Responder Council, and National Learning for Life Distinguished Service Award. But served as acting chief human capital officer. Before founding he most treasures what he received as a Scout more than half SESG, he spent two years developing an academic program a century ago. “The values I learned in Scouting, the Scout in homeland security for Ocean County College. Last year, he Oath and Law, I’ve tried to carry those through my life and my was named a Fellow of the National Cybersecurity Institute career,” he said. at Excelsior College, an appointment that recognized his leadership in the growing field of cyber intelligence. 11

Alumni Alive - Fall 2015  

Fall newsletter for Scouting Alumni Association Affiliates.

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