“Ma, You Earned Your Eagle”

February 11, 2014

Did you earn Eagle rank in Scouting?

Show this video below to your mother — it will endear you to her (as if you needed that).

Last year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) commemorated 100 years of Scouting as the youth program for boys and young men in the church.  In October there was a world-wide telecast of a ceremony in Salt Lake City.

This song was part of that telecast.

Look at the vintage uniforms some of the boys wear. (I have three of those hanging in my closet . . .)

IF you know the mother of an Eagle Scout — or the father — show this to them.  They’ll appreciate it.  They’ll probably have some even better stories to tell you (stories which I hope you’ll share in comments).

“Ma, You Earned Your Eagle”

Somewhere, Busby Berkeley’s Ghost is laughing, soaking in this production.  It only lacks an Esther Williams number in the water to be a full Berkeley musical, no?

Details:

Published on Oct 30, 2013

[From Sean Mobley] A fun musical snippet from the October 29th presentation “Legacy of Honor” commemorating the 100 year relationship between the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church. I’m not LDS, but as an Eagle Scout, I know my mom earned hers, too! Check out the whole presentation here: http://www.scouts100.lds.org/

More:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Mary Almanza, for finding the video, and to Kathryn Knowles, our resident Scout Mother.

Following in a Family Tradition — Becoming and Eagle Scout  Julie Reimer displays her Eagle Scout Mom pin, given to her by her son Michael during the Eagle Scout ceremony on Friday, December 30, in Whitefish. Julie has four such ribbons and pins, one for each of her four sons.

From Whitefish, Montana, DailyInterLake.com, Brenda Ahearn photos: Following in a Family Tradition — Becoming an Eagle Scout, Julie Reimer displays her Eagle Scout Mom pin, given to her by her son Michael during the Eagle Scout ceremony on Friday, December 30, in Whitefish. Julie has four such ribbons and pins, one for each of her four sons.

7,934

New Boy Scout merit badge: Sustainability

July 25, 2013

It’s Eagle required, too — well, Scouts can choose either Environmental Science or Sustainability, but must earn one or the other to earn Eagle rank.

Image of the Sustainability merit badge, from MeritBadge.org

Image of the Sustainability merit badge, from MeritBadge.org

Requirements for the new Sustainability merit badge were released on July 16, concurrent with the 2013 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit.  A lot of people missed the announcement, I’ll wager.

It’s good news.  Conservation and nature-related merit badges have suffered a decline in Scouting, it seems to me.  The conservation series was very much the keystone of a trek to Eagle when I was a Scout, at least as important as the citizenship series.  But I don’t see that emphasis in Scouting today, sadly.

BSA recently created a Mining merit badge, which created some quiet grumbles among conservationists — this new, Eagle-path badge more than makes up for that, I think (though mining is a great topic for Scouts, especially in the western U.S., I think).  This will not set well with the anti-conservation, anti-Agenda 21 crowd and their merry hoaxsters.  But nothing BSA does is removed from political criticism from the right any more (see this odd photo choice for the Sustainability badge notice at the radical right-wing Daily Caller site).

This announcement gives me hope.

More:

Below the fold, the requirements and announcement from Bryan on Scouting, at Scouting Magazine’s site, verbatim and in total.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mike Rowe: The value of Scouting, even for kids who don’t make Eagle

June 7, 2013

Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

Distinguished Eagle Scout Award Wikipedia image

Boy Scouts of America (BSA)  invited Mike Rowe to the 2012 Annual National Meeting.  They asked him to speak, but surprised him with a Distinguished Eagle Scout award.

Listen to his praise for the value of Scouting, for and from Scouts who don’t make Eagle (it’s at least ten minutes in, but this is entertaining).  Rowe has two brothers, neither of whom earned Eagle; his story involves the exploits of his younger brother, who was a Scout, and achieved the rank of Star.

It really is a Star Scout story.

More:

Ray Suarez receiving his Distinguished Eagle S...

PBS News Hour’s Ray Suarez receiving his Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. You find Eagles all over the place. Wikipedia image


100 years of Eagle Scouts

August 1, 2012

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout rank, awarded first to Scout Arthur Eldred.  2.1 million Eagles so far.

Do you have an Eagle Scout in your family?  Tell us about it in comments.

Also:


Photog (and Eagle Scout) Luke Sharrett leaving NY Times . . .

August 13, 2010

Go see the photos.  Seriously.  “The Capital was his classroom”, by David Dunlap.

Doubtless, there are other accomplished photojournalists in Washington who have won an Eagle Scout medal with bronze palm. Luke Sharrett of The Times may be the only one who earned his just six years ago.

And he is almost certainly the only photographer who’ll be leaving the D.C. press corps on Friday to start his junior year in college.

“Why are you doing that?” President Obama asked him as Air Force One was taking off the other day.

Dunlap does not say whether Sharrett earned the Photography Merit Badge.  Anyone know?


Oldest Eagle Scout, Walter Hart

July 20, 2010

Working to confirm, but news from Florida and a highly reliable source is that Walter Hart died over the weekend, at 91 by my calculations.

You would remember Hart as the oldest Eagle Scout, having gotten his award three years ago, when he was 88.

Mr. Hart should be remembered as a hero, and certainly as an inspiration to aspiring Eagle Scouts — especially those facing a short time to their 18th birthday.


Six Tiger Cubs grow into six Eagle Scouts

September 24, 2009

Six kids from Fort Bend, Texas, did what very few did.  From their start in a Tiger Cub Scout den 11 years ago, all six stuck with Scouting — and all six earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank award offered by the boy Scouts of America.

Here is the story in its entirety from the online publication Fort BendNow.com.

September 24th, 2009  |  by FortBendNow Staff | Published in News

Six young men, all members of the same Den 2 as Tiger Scouts, have earned the rank of Eagle Scout. The six boys began their scouting journey 11 years ago as they went through the Cub Scout program together then joined two different Boy Scout Troops.

Keith Wedelich, David Sackllah, Vincent Lau, Vijay Rajan, Edward Zhou, Bryan Parker at the Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony.

Keith Wedelich, David Sackllah, Vincent Lau, Vijay Rajan, Edward Zhou, Bryan Parker at the Eagle Court of Honor Ceremony.

Keith Wedelich of Boy Scout Troop 1631, and Vincent Lau, Bryan Parker, Vijay Rajan, David Sackllah, and Edward Zhou of Boy Scout Troop 441 were honored at a special ceremony to recognize their achievement at Christ United Methodist Church.  Family, friends, teachers, scouts, and adult volunteers attended the ceremony.  Troop 441 is chartered by Christ United Methodist Church and Troop 1631 is chartered by the Optimist Club of Sugar Land.

Only 1 in 4 boys in America will become a Boy Scout, and of those only 2 percent earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor a Boy Scout can achieve.

The ceremony was opened by Dennis Olheiser, Tomahawk District Commissioner, with introductions, followed by Chris Roberts, Boy

Scout Troop 441, who led the flag ceremony and provided a blessing for the ceremony.

Keith Wedelich, David Sackllah, Vincent Lau, Vijay Rajan, Edward Zhou and Bryan Parker as Cub Scouts at Wolf Rank.

Keith Wedelich, David Sackllah, Vincent Lau, Vijay Rajan, Edward Zhou and Bryan Parker as Cub Scouts at Wolf Rank.

Jim Rice, former Chairman of the Tomahawk District, and member of the Board of Directors of the Sam Houston Area Council BSA, gave a history of scouting and provided an introduction to a video of the 100 years of Scouting in America.

Scott Icenhower, Tomahawk District Advancement Chair, spoke on the significance of the Eagle Scout Rank; and Louis Alexander, Committee Chairman for Troop 441, spoke on the responsibilities of an Eagle Scout.

B.J. Bonner and Susan Fredericksen both spoke on the Trail to Eagle for the six scouts who started the journey 11 years ago.  A summary of their achievements and eagle projects were presented.

Rick Conley, Tomahawk District Chair, presented the Eagle Scout Rank Award to the Eagle Scouts and recognized the contributions of their parents.  Each Eagle Scout then spoke to thank those that have helped them along their journey and to share highlights of their scouting career so far.

Remarks were provided by Debbie Wedelich, the Den Leader for Den 2 in Cub Scout Pack 631, Jerre Parker, former Scoutmaster at Troop 441, and Arun Rajan, Committee Member of Troop 441 also spoke on the eagle scouts and how Boy Scouts had a profound effect on the families as well as the Eagle Scouts.

Jim Rice provided final comments and the ceremony concluded with a benediction and flag ceremony.  A reception was held immediately following the ceremony.

The Eagle Scouts

Keith Wedelich, Boy Scout Troop 1631, joined Cub Scouting in 1999 with Pack 631 and earned the Arrow of Light Award in December 2002, the highest award in Cub Scouts.  He joined Boy Scout Troop 1631 in January 2003.  Wedelich joined Troop 1631 as both of his brothers were members.  Wedelich held various positions of leadership in his Troop including scribe, quartermaster, assistant senior patrol leader, and Order of the Arrow representative.  He was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 30 merit badges.

Wedelich’s scouting career has included all three high adventure camps; more than 50 miles of hiking in the mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, 75 miles of canoeing in the boundary waters of Canada at Northern Tier, and scuba diving in the Florida Keys at Florida Sea Base.  He also attended the 2005 National Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill Virginia.  He has more than 124 nights of camping, 134 canoe miles, 129 hiking miles.

For his Eagle Scout Service Project, Wedelich designed and led a crew to build a horse barn for Morning Glory Ranch, an organization that provides equine therapy for mentally and physically handicapped youth.  The horse barn is 12 foot by 12 foot and 10 feet tall.  The barn was built in a small pasture area where new horses are held for quarantine or horses that are ill or about to foal can be closely monitored.  Wedelich directed 20 people over six work days for a total of 320 man hours.  He also provided more than 200 hours of service to the community on various service projects.

Wedelich is a senior at Clements High School and is involved in the Clements Robotics Team, National Honor Society, Academic Decathalon, JETS, Mu Alpha Theta, choir and the computer science club.  His parents are Hank and Debbie Wedelich and he has one sister, Laura, 25, who earned the Girl Scout Gold Award.  His two brothers, Jeffrey, 24, and David, 23, are also Eagle Scouts from Troop 1631.

Vincent Lau, Bryan Parker, Vijay Rajan, David Sackllah, and Edward Zhou of Boy Scout Troop 441 all joined Cub Scouting in 1999 with Pack 631 and earned the Arrow of Light Award in December 2002, the highest award in Cub Scouts.  All then joined Boy Scout Troop 441 in January 2003.

Sackllah held various positions of leadership in Troop 441 including patrol leader, troop guide, and chaplain aide.  He was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 22 merit badges.

Sackllah’s scouting career has included National Youth Leadership Training and he attended various summer camps.  He was also part of Frog Patrol which earned National Honor Patrol recognition.  David earned the God and Me Religious Award.

For his Eagle Scout Project, he wanted to create a friendly environment for the students using Settler’s Way Elementary Library.  Sackllah designed, built, and painted 12 flower-shaped tables.  He also re-shelved more than 10,000 books so the books would be in the correct order and easier to find.  He directed 24 people for a total of 148 man hours.

Sackllah is a senior at Clements High School and is involved in Clements Varsity Football, Student Council, PALS, and the National Honor Society.  He also volunteers as a “Dream League Angel” and is a volunteer coach for the First Colony Youth Basketball Association.  His parents are and Jimmy and Tracy Sackllah.

Lau held various positions of leadership in Troop 441 including assistant patrol leader, patrol leader, historian, troop guide, instructor, and assistant senior patrol leader.  Lau was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 35 merit badges.

Lau’s scouting career has included National Youth Leadership Training in 2006; the New River Adventure Camp in Virginia in 2006; National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience in 2007; and 73 miles of hiking in the mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico in 2008.  He was part of Frog Patrol which earned National Honor Patrol recognition.  Vincent also earned the World Conservation, Winter Camper, and Mile Swim awards.

For his Eagle Project, Lau designed and constructed four 6’ x 3’ x 2’ shelves and a 6’ x 7’ x 2’ lockable cabinet for Colony Bend Elementary School.  The shelves hold standardized storage bins filled with various props and musical equipment.  The lockable cabinet provides secure storage for costumes.  Lau brought together 20 volunteers over three work days to construct and install the shelves for a total of 390 man hours.

Lau is a senior at Clements High School and is involved in the robotics team, Clements Interact (currently hold Vice President position), Clements Earth, and ACES clubs.  He is also a member of National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, and National Eagle Scout Association.  For the past three summers, he spent a total of 350 hours volunteering at Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) as an Ecoteen assisting the science summer camp counselors and giving science presentations to the public.  For his volunteer efforts at HMNS, he earned the President’s Volunteer Service Silver Award in 2008.  His parents are Lawrence and Linda Lau and he has a 15-year-old sister, Stacey.

Vijay Rajan held various positions of leadership in Troop 441 including patrol leader, troop guide, librarian, historian, and Order of the Arrow representative.  He was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 38 merit badges.

Rajan’s scouting career has included an expedition at Philmont Scout Ranch, and various summer camps in Texas, and he earned the Mile Swim award.  He was also part of Frog Patrol which earned National Honor Patrol recognition.  Rajan earned the Dharma (Hindu) Religious Award as a Boy Scout.

For his Eagle Scout Project, Rajan planned and supervised landscaping for a garden courtyard and cleaning a pond for Kids Unlimited.  This non-profit organization benefits children with cancer.  Their 12-acre facility provides an atmosphere where their illness can be temporarily forgotten.  He directed 22 people for a total of 131 man hours.

Rajan is a senior at Clements High School and is involved in DECA, Rotary Interact and Indian Cultural Organization clubs. He hopes to major in Engineering and Business at College.

His parents are Arun and Padmini Rajan.

Edward Zhou joined Cub Scouts in 1998, and then joined Pack 631 when the family moved to Texas.  He held various positions of leadership in Troop 441 including patrol leader, troop guide, historian, and instructor.  He was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 24 merit badges.

Zhou’s scouting career has included National Youth Leadership Training, two summer camps in Texas, and he earned the Mile Swim award.  He was also part of Frog Patrol which earned National Honor Patrol recognition.

For his Eagle Scout Project, Zhou designed and built a pair of storage shelves for the Chinese Civic Center.  The storage shelves were pre-built on the first day and then they were moved to the site, assembled and stocked.  He directed 14 people for a total of 133 man hours.

Zhou is a senior at Clements High School and is an active member of Rotary Interact and his high school debate team.  He is a National AP Scholar and a National Merit Semifinalist. He earned a “Distinguished Volunteer” award from the Chinese Civic Center in 2009.  His parents are John and Tina, and his brother Oliver is a student at UT Austin.

Bryan Parker held various positions of leadership in Troop 441 including assistant patrol leader, patrol leader, quartermaster, instructor, and senior patrol leader. Parker was elected by his Troop to the Order of the Arrow.  On the trail to Eagle, he earned 31 merit badges and camped over 135 nights.  He has also earned an Eagle Gold Palm.

Parker’s scouting career has included National Youth Leadership Training, New River Adventure in Virginia, the 2005 National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill Virginia, and hiking more than 150 miles during two treks at Philmont Scout Ranch including one selection as his trek’s crew leader.  He was also part of Frog Patrol which earned National Honor Patrol recognition.  Parker earned the God and Me Religious Award in 2001.

For his Eagle Project, Parker designed and constructed a storage cabinet for Colony Bend Elementary School to hold science equipment for various grades in a central, secure location.  He directed 14 people for a total of 94 volunteer hours.

Parker is a senior at Clements High School and is a member of the National Honor Society.  He plans to study Business at a major university next year.  His parents are Jerre and Maureen Parker and he has one sister, Heather, who has earned the Girl Scout Silver award.

Do you like this story, this kind of news?  Kindly spread the word:

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What they’re saying about our 2 millionth Eagle

June 19, 2009

St. Paul Pioneer Press ran an article today on Anthony Thomas of Lakeville, Minnesota, the Scout designated the 2 millionth Eagle Scout.

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press:  Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press: Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

In a sort of luck-of-the-draw deal, Thomas has been named Scouting’s national youth ambassador for Scouting’s 100th anniversary in 2010.  He’s scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama, to ride in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, and for dozens of other less well-known affairs.

On Wednesday, he helped Northern Star Council celebrate the opening of a new Scout Camp, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

It was a special day, according to coverage at Northern Star Council’s website:

History was made as Thomas was introduced as the BSA’s two millionth Eagle by Minnesota State leaders. Making the presentation were Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen, Representative Kate Knuth and Representative Cy Thao.  Each shared their reflections on the importance of Scouting in their lives and then read a Proclamation from Governor Pawlenty declaring June 17 as “2 Millionth Eagle Scout Day” in Minnesota.

Scouting began awarding Eagle badges in 1912 — Thomas Eldred was the first Eagle.  The 1 millionth Eagle was awarded in 1982, 70 years later.  It’s been 27 years for the second million.  About 100 million boys are or were Boy Scouts since 1910.

You’d think this news would be a bigger deal.  Why isn’t this news going farther, faster?

Send this to your local newspapers and television stations — ask them to make a note of Thomas’s achievement, to encourage local kids.

More news stories:

Other resources:


Never hike alone

April 30, 2009

Not even if you’re an Eagle Scout.

Scott Mason of Halifax, Massachusetts, survived three nights on snowy Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  He nursed his sprained ankle, and kept warm with fires he started using hand sanitizer.

(Boston Globe) Mason later told his mother that he had tweaked his leg during the hike and that it was bothering him. As a precaution, he was taken to the Androscoggin Valley Regional Hospital, where he was evaluated and released.

Back in Halifax, his troop issued a statement, “Boy Scouts of America Troop 39 Halifax, Massachusetts, is extremely pleased with the positive outcome of this incident. Scott is a bright young man and our most experienced hiker. We have no doubt that he put all of his training and skills to use in order to come through this ordeal.”

Mason received an award two years ago for collecting more than 3,200 pounds of food for the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Pine Street Inn. For his Eagle Scout project, he collected the food by leaving boxes at Halifax area businesses. He has been a Boy Scout since he was 11.

Not only is Scouting an adventure, it prepares you to get out of even your own mistakes.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Randy Possehl on the Scouts-L list.


Scout earns all 121 merit badges, in Ardmore, Oklahoma

March 22, 2009

Another Scout joined the exclusive club of those who earned all the possible merit badges.

Wes Weaver, already an Eagle Scout, added the last of his merit badges late last month, according to KXII Channel 12 in Sherman, Texas (covering the border area around Lake Texoma).

“In 2008, there were 20 scouts across the county who had gotten all 121 merit badges. I’m adding my name to that list,” Wes says.

Eagle Scout Wes Weaver, of Ardmore, Oklahoma Troop 121 - earned all 121 merit badges - Ada Evening News photo

But Weaver’s accomplishments don’t end with badges. The teen also earned his Eagle Scout award by building a 112-foot bridge over a creek bed in Lake Murray State Park. It was no easy task with the rugged terrain

“Just digging the holes I was thinking I’m never going to be done. All my weekends are going to be spent out here digging holes,” Wes says.

“It was scheduled to take between two to three months. It ended up taking a year and 6 months,” says Wes’s father, Rusty Weaver.

Rusty helped his son plan out the bridge and construct it, along with the rest of Troop 112. Now all kinds of area bicyclists, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the state park a little more.  [video available here]

Keeping with an interesting if perplexing tradition, bugling was the last merit badge he earned.  Weaver had aimed for 121 since he first became a Boy Scout, and his Scoutmaster, David Mannas challenged the troop to earn their Eagle rank and then go beyond the 44 merit badges Manass had earned.

Many of Weaver’s merit badges were earned in the traditional fashion, at the many summer and winter camps he attended over the years. Weaver’s father, Rusty Weaver, became the Scoutmaster of Troop 112 and is a Climbing Director for Arbuckle Area Council. “My dad would be at camp two to four weeks a summer so I stayed at camp and took all the merit badge classes I could. Before I knew it, I had 80 merit badges.”

He attends Plainview High School concurrently with Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Regional Center and looks forward to finalizing his college plans.

Weaver was recognized for his rare achievement at the Arbuckle Area Council Annual Recognition Banquet, Feb. 28 at Camp Simpson in Bromide. His parents are Trish and Rusty Weaver, Ardmore.

Resources:

Previous notes at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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Amarillo Scout: 121 merit badges, and more

January 2, 2009

Here’s a good story we missed back in September.  This is one more example of outstanding achievement by a good kid, a Scout, that slips by largely unremarked.

Amarillo Scout Coleman Carter got his 121st merit badge in his troop’s court of honor.  He had earned his Eagle Rank in September 2004.

Carter’s 121st badge?  Bugling.  He doesn’t play the trumpet or bugle, so it was difficult. Bugling was also the last badge earned by the New York Scout, Shawn Goldsmith.  Is this a trend?  My recollection is that at least one other member of 121-Merit Badge Club got bugling last.

Amarillo Eagle Scout Carter Coleman - Amarillo Globe photo

Amarillo Eagle Scout Carter Coleman - Amarillo Globe photo

Earning every merit badge in the book is just one of Carter’s achievements, however.  He’s a National Merit Scholar, ranked #1 in his class at Tascosa High School, and studentbody president.  You can read several of his acheivements here, in the Amarillo Globe-News — and remember, this was before his junior year (he’s a senior this year).

Better, go read what Globe-News columnist Jon Mark Beilue wrote on September 24, 2008, “Scout blows it out.”

Coleman is a member of Troop 87, sponsored by St. Thomas the Apostle ChurchAmarillo is in the Golden Spread Council, BSA, which serves the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Mr. Coleman is not the first to accomplish this feat, nor will he be the last, I suspect.  I do wish that troops, districts and councils would do more to spread the news of such outstanding feats by Scouts.  A press release kept online, with photos, would have been nice.  (While we’re ranting, would it be so difficult for the Amarillo Globe-News to put its name on its website?  Or has the Globe-News gone out of business?)


Beyond what is required: Another Scout earns all merit badges

December 30, 2008

From Oceanside, Long Island, New York, we get brief reports of an Eagle Scout, Shawn Goldsmith, who earned all 121 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America.  He finished work on his last badge, for bugling, in November.

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

From WBBH, Channel 2, an NBC affiliate television news operation on Long Island:

Goldsmith says he took about five years to earn his first 62 badges and then nearly doubled that number in a matter of months. He did it with the encouragement of his grandmother, who died shortly before he reached his goal. He was awarded his final badges on Dec. 19.

Goldsmith is a freshman at Binghamton University and hopes to become a businessman and politician.

Shawn is a member of Troop 240, Greater New York Council (Bronx), whose chartered organization is Riverdale Presbyterian Church.  Shawn was editor of his high school’s newspaper, and he served as an intern in the Long Island office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

More information:

Related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Update – other mentions:


Earning every Boy Scout merit badge

July 14, 2008

Dan Bates served on the staff at Camp Maple Dell for at least the part of one summer when I was on junior staff there, in Utah’s Payson Canyon (1969? 1970?). Maple Dell is a Boy Scout camp operated by the Utah National Parks Council, B.S.A.

I remember Dan because he was one of those overachieving guys who had earned every possible merit badge — 121 at the time, if I recall correctly. By comparison, there are 21 merit badges necessary to earn Eagle Scout (which Dan is, also).

It didn’t go to his head at all. Dan was a great guy, from Heber, Utah, a small town up Provo Canyon in one of the world’s most beautiful valleys. Heber used to be separated from much of Utah by snow every year, but the roads are kept clear these days.

Once I asked Dan what possessed him to get every merit badge, and without pausing long, he said, “What else do you do in Heber in the winter?” It was a flip answer unexpected from the usually more sober Bates.

I think about Dan this time of year when the news stories start appearing about a new Scout, somewhere, who has earned every merit badge. One of the common themes of these stories: Has anyone else ever done it?

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

In The Press-Enterprise in San Bernardino, County, California, for example, the June 25 issue reports the achievements of Travis Cochran:

If Don Townsend was a betting man he’d put money on the fact that Travis Cochran is the only Boy Scout to have earned every merit badge and the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Medals.

Cochran, 18, of Cedarpines Park, earned 122 merit badges during his scouting career. Twenty-one merit badges must be earned to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

There is a qualification in this story — Cochran also earned the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Conservation Medals — but you see the drift.

Alas, there is no central location for information about such achievements that I have ever found. Tracking the achievements of Boy Scouts, like the tremendous accomplishments of Scouts Dan Bates and Travis Cochran, generally falls to the local unit. Sometimes a local Boy Scout Council will have some information, but usually not.

History sneaks away so often because no one bothers to invite it to stick around.

Do you know of other Boy Scouts who earned every possible merit badge? We had one such Scout in the Circle 10 Council (Dallas) last year. How many others sneaked by without the hoopla they deserve?

Dan Bates, where are you these days?

Update, August 2009:  Dan Bates has been found!

Dan wrote in from Mesa, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon Council — see his note in comments, below.  Turns out I remembered it incorrectly — he had 100 merit badges, but not all of them.  His brother got them all.  Glad for the correction.  Happier to have found Mr. Bates.

Other resources:

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Science history slips away: Ralph Alpher and Big Bang

September 20, 2007

Looking for something else in an old newspaper, I came across a small obituary for Ralph Alpher. Alpher died August 12, 2007, in Austin, Texas, at the home of his son, Dr. Victor S. Alpher.

Ralph Alpher, physicist who co-hypothesized the Big Bang

Ralph Alpher, physicist who co-hypothesized the Big Bang

Ralph Alpher gave us the Big Bang. We let him slip away, almost unnoticed. Odds are you don’t recall ever hearing of Alpher. Here’s your mnemonic: The alphabet paper.

In 1948, as a graduate student under George Gamow at the George Washington University, Alpher and Robert Herman of Johns Hopkins laid the groundwork for what would become Big Bang theory, calculating how matter could arise in the Universe. Gamow, exhibiting the sense of humor for which physicists are famous, listed the authors of the paper as Alpher, Bethe, Gamow and Herman — a play on the Greek alphabet’s first three letters (alpha, beta, gamma), and a joke invoking the name of the great physicist Hans Bethe. Bethe liked the joke, consulted on the paper, and the theory of Big Bang was published.

Ralph Alpher, in Florida, 2006; Alpher home page

The name “Big Bang” was applied a few years later; Sir Frederick Hoyle and his colleagues favored a “steady state” universe, and at the time both hypotheses could accurately predict most of what was observed, and neither could be disproven. Hoyle, hoping to poke ridicule at the competing hypothesis, belittled it as “a big bang.” The name stuck. The name misleads the unwary; the theory posits a rapid expansion at the beginning of the universe and time, but not an explosion, per se.

Alpher wrote the mathematical model; the model predicted Big Bang, and specifically, it predicted the cosmic background radiation that would have been left over; it was this background radiation, the “echo” of Big Bang, that Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson stumbled across in 1965. Robert H. Dicke had invested several years in trying to discover this signature, and had to explain to Penzias and Wilson what they had found. Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize for their discovery; Dicke, Alpher, Herman and Gamow, did not get Nobel Prizes. This is generally regarded as one of the great miscarriages of justice in Nobel Prize awards, not that Penzias and Wilson did not deserve an award, but that the chief theorists and the man who unveiled the discovery were overlooked.

This is another story of rejection leading to great discovery; it is also a rather sad story of a momentous achievement, mostly overlooked through the years.

Alpher was the son of Jewish émigrés from the Russian pogroms. His high school achievements merited a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1937. MIT had a rule at the time that scholarship recipients could not work outside the school. Alpher assisted his father in building houses in the Washington, D.C. area; the family had little money, and Alpher would be unable to pay room and board without working. Discussions with MIT broke down — the offer of a scholarship was withdrawn, according to most accounts when MIT discovered he was a Jew. As so many great people of the post World War II era, he enrolled at the George Washington University.

At GWU, Alpher found Gamow as a mentor, and much of the rest is history.

The New York Times:

The paper reported Dr. Alpher’s calculations on how, as the initial universe cooled, the remaining particles combined to form all the chemical elements in the world. This elemental radiation and matter he dubbed ylem, for the Greek term defining the chaos out of which the world was born.

The research also offered an explanation for the varying abundances of the known elements. It yielded the estimate that there should be 10 atoms of hydrogen for every one atom of helium in the universe, as astronomers have observed.

Months later, Dr. Alpher collaborated with Robert Herman of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University on a paper predicting that the explosive moment of creation would have released radiation that should still be echoing through space as radio waves. Astronomers, perhaps thinking it impossible to detect any residual radiation or still doubting the Big Bang theory, did not bother to search.

The Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper, or αβγ paper, as explained by the American Institute of Physics:

When Alpher and Gamow prepared a paper on the subject, Gamow mischievously added the name of the noted nuclear physicist Hans Bethe to the list of authors so it would be called the “Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper,” mimicking the “alpha-beta-gamma” of the first letters of the Greek alphabet. Unknown to Gamow, Bethe was a reviewer for the journal to which Gamow submitted the article. Bethe took it in good humor, later explaining, “I felt at the time that it was rather a nice joke, and that the paper had a chance of being correct, so that I did not mind my name being added to it.” Gamow also urged Herman to change his name to Delter to match delta, the next letter in the Greek alphabet. Despite Herman’s refusal, in a paper in a major scientific journal Gamow referred to “the neutron-capture theory…developed by Alpher, Bethe, Gamow and Delter.” Not least among his notable characteristics was his sense of humor.

Alpher continued in this work for a time, but joined General Electric’s labs in the 1950s. When he retired from GE, in 1986 he joined the faculty at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and taught there until 2004.

Alpher was largely overlooked for awards even while his theory was big news in astronomy and physics for the last 40 years of the 20th century. I regret that I was wholly unaware he was in Austin; how many other great contributors to science and history live among us, unrecognized, uncelebrated, and their stories unrecorded?

Alpher, Herman and Gamow - and the famous Cointreau bottle

Photo caption from AIP: A 1949 composite picture with Robert Herman on the left, Ralph Alpher on the right, and George Gamow in the center, as the genie coming out of the bottle of “Ylem,” the initial cosmic mixture of protons, neutrons, and electrons from which the elements supposedly were formed. [The Cointreau bottle from which the three drank a toast upon the acceptance of the paper, is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.]

Alpher was an Eagle Scout. I wonder whether anyone has a history of his time in Scouting?

While the Nobel Prize eluded Alpher, he collected a host of other prestigious awards and honors. Earlier this year, President Bush announced that Alpher had been awarded the National Medal of Science, which is administered by the National Science Foundation and is the highest honor for science.

. . . [T]he citation reads in part:

“For his unprecedented work in the areas of nucleosynthesis, for the prediction that universe expansion leaves behind background radiation, and for providing the model for the Big Bang theory.”

Note from George Gamow, on confirmation of Big Bang Gamow’s humor again on display — an undated note from Gamow upon the confirmation of the Big Bang, with a punny reference to Steady State backer Sir Frederick Hoyle. Image from the American Institute for Physics.

Online sources for Ralph Alpher:

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